Basdeo Lallchan and Jonathan Ramkellawan, the two men who were injured on Saturday after a Guyana Police Force vehicle transporting the Police Commissioner collided with their truck, are blaming the police driver for the accident and they say he should be held accountable.
Lallchan, 37, of Lot 1718 Block X, Diamond, East Bank Demerara and Ramkellawan, 24, also a resident of Diamond, are currently both patients at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Lallchan, who was the driver of canter truck, GWW 9079, sustained a broken leg, while his porter, Ramkellawan, sustained a broken hip and injuries to his feet.
The accident occurred around 2.45 pm on Saturday along the Covent Garden Public Road, on the East Bank of Demerara.
The force vehicle, PSS 4796, was driven by Corporal Mark Smith. It was occupied by Commissioner of Police Leslie James and his personal assistant, Superintendent Allistair Roberts.
While James and Smith escaped unhurt, Roberts was admitted to the St Joseph Mercy Hospital nursing injuries to his shoulder.
The police, in a statement, had said that enquiries revealed that at the time of the accident, the police jeep was proceeding north along the western side of the western carriageway of the road with its beacon light and siren on, while the canter truck was proceeding in front in the same direction.
It added that as the jeep approached, the truck swerved from east to west and stopped. As a result, the jeep collided with it.
The truck subsequently collided with another truck and the jeep collided with the rear of another vehicle that was parked on the western side of the road.
Lallchan and Ramkellawan yesterday explained to Stabroek News that they were on their way to the East Coast of Demerara to sell water when the accident occurred.
Lallchan confirmed that he was proceeding on the western side of the western carriageway of the East Bank Demerara Public Road. He said he was driving at a normal speed.
“Upon approaching 110, [that] is in Prospect, I saw this police vehicle, moderate,
driving moderate because it was a whole lot of traffic went behind me… and approaching Covent Garden, soon as I hit, bound Covent Garden like the traffic was so normal, this dude [Corporal Smith], like he just exit all this traffic in a rush because he was just, everybody was just going at one pace at one time and before I coulda reach like the second corner in Covent Garden, this dude [Corporal Smith] is right there, up under my truck,” he explained.
“….All I hear this engine racing at the top, like it revving out when it hit my vehicle. That loud! So, I had to glimpse back at my mirror when I hear this thing approaching so, so loud, and by time I look back in me mirror, it was already on top of me,” he added.
Lallchan said he is grateful to be alive since the accident could have claimed his life.
He expressed dissatisfaction at the manner in which the police officer used the road and is calling for him to be charged. “He is a police officer and he should be setting an example. Now, if he did it on purpose he was wrong and it should be some sort of charges or penalty for him doing something like duh,” he said.
An eyewitness also related to this newspaper that the accident was as a result of negligence. “The police them wrong,” the man, who wished not to be named, said.
“I was in the cabin of a truck folding something and same time the canter did coming and the police hit the canter and spin in into a parked truck and the police vehicle end up in another truck heh at the side that was parked,” he said.
The man said as a result of the impact, it was clear the police vehicle was speeding. “For some reason, they [the police] saying they weren’t speeding, so I don’t know how they did that. Duh truck [one of the parked truck] at the back is 15 tonnes, they move it one foot forward and they bend a side bar at the back that I can’t figure out how they bend it yet,” he noted.
Reports had suggested that the accident occurred after Lallchan allegedly failed to acknowledge the police vehicle’s siren. However, both Lallchan and Ramkellawan yesterday said that the siren was not used by the police at the time of the accident.
“….I did see the lights flashing, in the middle of the police vehicle in front. There was no siren. No lights on the top of the vehicle, there was two in the hood, in front, flashing. There was no siren, no noise, nothing coming from the vehicle and this vehicle didn’t hit no brakes, he didn’t honk he horn, nothing. He just rush into my vehicle,” Lallchan said.
“There was an empty lane on your right. I was in the left lane but I see the lights on. There was no siren, no sound or whatever coming out of this vehicle. He didn’t honk the horn or nothing. When I glimpse back at my mirror, this vehicle was already on the top of my truck. In a split second. All I coulda do was pull me truck fah hit this parked vehicle at the centre of my truck, not to kill anyone of us in my vehicle,” he added.
Contacted for a comment yesterday, Traffic Chief Linden Isles explained to Stabroek News that the force vehicle was one approved by the Guyana Police Force and the law provided for the use of siren at any time.
It does not have to be a state of emergency, he said.
“It’s an approved police vehicle and the laws claim that approved police vehicle….. I can’t say about emergency and emergency but this approved police vehicle was proceeding, the siren and the flash light it means then that you need to adhere, persons need to adhere to it,” Isles said.
“The law is clear on it. It says once it’s an approved police vehicle, the siren can be used,” he added.
The police had said that Smith was subject to a breathalyser test and no alcohol was found on his breath.
Ramkellawan said he too did not heard any siren or any indication of the police vehicle approaching, until he heard the sound of the engine and looked into his mirror.
He said he was on his phone when he recalled feeling a loud impact before being pinned down in the front passenger seat of the canter. “There was music in the canter yes but it was very low because I was on the phone. I can’t be on the phone and playing music loud, Ramkellawan said.
At the time of the accident, James, who was seated in the back seat of the force vehicle, was being transported from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, where he touched down earlier after returning from overseas duties.
Views have been expressed that the police vehicle should have travelled as any other vehicle that afternoon considering that the police commissioner was simply on the way down from the airport.
Members of the public have complained in the past about the abusive use of police sirens and the reckless driving by the drivers of these vehicles.