Grit amid grief

Fabianique Powell plans to ace the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) this year, even as she grieves the death of her mother in a horrific motor vehicle crash two Mondays ago.

“My preparation for PEP is going quite well. She is going to always be here with me, so I will just try not to worry,” 11-year-old Fabianique told the Jamaica Observer last Tuesday evening as she, other family members, and friends gathered at a nine-night and candle-lighting ceremony in honour of her mother, Cornelia Montague-Clarke, at the family home in the Mountain View area of Kingston.

Montague-Clarke was among five people who perished when the minibus in which they were travelling from Manchester to Kingston crashed on the PJ Patterson leg of Highway 2000.

“I am kinda sad, but I am just trying to keep the faith overall, because I know she is safe with Jesus,” said Fabianique, who hopes to do well enough in the exam to attend Immaculate Conception High School in St Andrew.

Her seven-year-old sister, Fashionique Powell, was a picture of grief. Her head bowed, she looked up occasionally. “I miss mommy, I love mommy,” she told the Sunday Observer during one of those glances.

The family was trying hard not to give much thought to the fact that the $80,000 which Montague-Clarke had at the time of the crash was stolen. She had intended to use the money to finish paying for a container of used furniture and other items at the wharf.

Her mother, Patsy McCubbin-Montague, said she was appalled to learn that the cash was taken.

“Right now I am grieving. My daughter was on her way to the wharf when the accident happened. She was a sweet and loving person. She was a giving person who loved children. God always choose the best. She will be missed by so many people. The entire community is grieving for her,” she told the Sunday Observer.

The dead woman’s father, Calvin Montague, called on the Government to address the problem of indiscipline on the roads.

He singled out taxi and minibus operators as being guilty of reckless driving.

“These things are imminent and we are in a crises with motor vehicle killings. It is next to COVID-19 and regular murders. Government turn a blind eye to things like this. They don’t feel it. Bad driving with minibus and taxis is a problem and is causing people grief everywhere,” Montague fumed.

“People are getting bitter and bitter everyday. I am past bitterness. Government needs to step up and bring back the society to a disciplined society, especially with motor vehicles. Our mentality in Jamaica is not about having a job, but about hustling,” he said in an obvious reference to minibus and taxi drivers who, in an effort to make as much money as possible, break road traffic laws and speed limits daily.

“The mentality of the taximen and minibus drivers, where they have to bring in $5,000 or $6,000, makes him become reckless and people are dying. There needs to be enforcement of the laws in this country to combat misbehaviour on the road. These guys need to be dealt with in a severe manner. Government need fi step up pon the rampant indiscipline,” he said.

Superintendent of police in charge of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, Gary McKenzie, says that once investigations are complete, at least two charges are likely to be laid against the driver of the minibus that spun out of control after it slammed into a truck.

The other four deceased have been identified as 45-year-old construction worker Dwight Geohagen of Decarteret Road, Mandeville, Manchester; 31-year-old Christopher Barrett, businessman of Sunset Avenue, Knockpatrick in Manchester; 20-year-old Janella Maitland of a Brettford Avenue address in St Andrew; and 43-year-old Lydia Brown of Simon District in Rock River, Clarendon.

“The driver was in hospital and I am told that he is still there,” McKenzie said. “We are looking at the speed he was travelling to see whether or not… that possibility contributed to it.

“It is not one charge that can be proffered. If someone is driving and is culpable, a charge of either manslaughter or causing death by dangerous driving are two possible charges, but there could also be attendant charges where defective motor vehicles and so on are concerned,” McKenzie added.

Given that 123 people have lost their lives on the island’s roads in motor vehicle crashes between January 1 and April 19 this year, compared to 131 for the same period in 2020, director of the Island Traffic Authority Kenute Hare told the Sunday Observer that the issue is cause for concern.

He pointed out that 19 people were killed in the first 19 days of April 2021.

Pointing to the deadly crash on April 12, Hare encouraged motorists to examine motor vehicles before operating them on the roads.

“It is totally intolerable that we have 19 persons dead in 19 days in April. We would like to appeal to drivers and passengers, occupants of motor vehicles, to say that 123 persons have died before their time and these crashes could have easily been prevented had they taken the requisite precautionary measures to put the safety apparatus in operation as we traverse the road network,” Hare said.

“We need to cut the speed. Excessive speeding, improper overtaking and people not wearing their seat belts, people failing to keep in their traffic lane are among the major factors that contributed to the deaths of 123 persons since the start of the year, up to today [April 19, 2021]. This is something we cannot tolerate as a country and as a people. That is 123 too much,” he said.

“One of the things I would love to see our people do is embrace the process of road safety and not to compromise their safety in any way, shape, or form,” Hare said.

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