This week’s featured development as Newsmaker of the Week just ended is Tuesday night’s two-vehicle crash along a closed section of the St Thomas leg of the Southern Coastal Highway between Albion and Grants Pen in the parish, which resulted in the death of three persons, a taxi operator, an accountant and a security guard.
In an interesting and rather curious turn of events, the Road Safety Unit (RSU) in the Ministry of Transport and Mining said on Friday that the fatalities from the bang-up have been officially scrubbed from its national database and fatal collision statistics.
According to the RSU, its decision to do so is based on information it has received from the police that the collision occurred on a closed section of roadway which is undergoing construction.
Part of the criteria the unit uses for reporting on and recording fatal collision are that: the crash has been reported to the police; the crash occurred on a road that is open to and being used by the public, whether the road is public or private; and the crash involved a vehicle which, at the time of the crash, was in motion.
Weeks before the tragedy, Prime Minister Andrew Holness toured the leg of the new highway project and reported that the works appeared to be progressing in accordance with reports he had received.
Residents have long complained about dust nuisance and access to their properties, but Holness said on April 13 that those issues are being dealt with.
Dusty roadways presently under construction across much of St Thomas.
While sections of the roadway are yet to be opened and fully completed, motorists have been seemingly taking advantage of the thoroughfares, which resulted in the tragedy on Tuesday night.
The deceased from the crash are: 61-year-old accountant Errol Taylor, who was of a Pembroke Hall address in St Andrew; taxi operator Maurice Hinds, 41; and 29-year-old Tamoy Delisser, a security guard.
Hinds was from Retreat in St Thomas and Delisser was from Heartease district, also in St Thomas.
Reports are that about 6:40 pm on Tuesday, Hinds was driving a Toyota Probox motor car towards Yallahs, when upon reaching a section of the roadway, he attempted to overtake a motor vehicle.
His vehicle subsequently collided with another Toyota Probox that was on the opposite side of the roadway, the police said.
The police were summoned, and upon observation, it was revealed that both drivers had failed to adhere to the road closure sign that was erected.
All 12 injured individuals, including two children, were transported to hospital for treatment, where Hinds and Taylor were pronounced dead.
Delisser later succumbed to his injuries.
For Custos of St Thomas, Marcia Bennett, the authorities need to look deeply into the likely implications of incidents like Tuesday’s bloody crash in the parish.
In noting reports that the crash occurred on a section of roadway that has not yet been opened for motorists to travel on, she cited the incident as being indicative of the level of indiscipline that can be expected along the highway when it is completed.
Speaking with Loop News on Thursday, the custos said there is far too much indiscipline among motorists across the parish at present, and that will most likely increase significantly with the opening of a brand new highway through St Thomas.
Custos Marcia Bennett
“There is too much indiscipline on the roadways right now, so you can just imagine how it will be when the pretty, new highway comes into the picture,” said Bennett.
“So, I am urging the authorities to begin to plan to significantly beef up policing along the completed highway, as from my understanding, there is an inadequate number of personnel for that purpose now, and the challenges will, no doubt, significantly increase with the new roadway in place,” she added.
A day before the deadly road crash in St Thomas, Holness said there has been a 14 per cent reduction in road fatalities and crashes since the start of the year.
“We’re 110 days already in the year, but we’ve seen over 120 (road) deaths. So, it’s a significant number of lives lost, but we’ve saved lives obviously,” he said then.
Updated statistics from the RSU indicated that 135 persons have died from 123 fatal crashes as at Friday, April 28.
This, said the unit, represents an eight per cent decrease in fatalities and a five per cent decline in fatal crashes when compared with the similar period in 2022.
Holness, on Monday, credited the reduction to increased enforcement and tougher penalties stemming from the rollout of the new Road Traffic Act in February of this year.
“The Jamaican public is more conscious of using the roadway safely,” he claimed.
Still, despite that prognosis from the prime minister, there was outrage from persons on social media relative to the perceived action of the motorists that resulted in the bloody crash on the closed section of the highway in St Thomas.
“When will they learn?” questioned Facebook user, Beverley Evans, in reference to the motorists who were involved in the two-vehicle bang-up.
“The dead CANNOT learn. Every day suh? The PM (prime minister) and so many people been begging you drivers to take it easy on the roads, but uno don’t listen, seems like uno ears missing or uno not seeing what is happening,” Evans stated.
“These two drivers would be in some serious trouble with the law if they were alive… They were both breaking the law of driving on a closed road… My condolences,” wrote another user, Beryl Lium.
Commented Simone Everbless: “The taxi driver them in St Thomas them drive like them dunce and if u even say take u time drive, them a tell u come out.
“I am afraid to take a St Thomas taxi. Mi know people was going die on the new road, police them need to come out,” she opined.
Shared Bari Blaxx: “Until they ban these weapons of mass destruction (taxis) this will continue to happen.”
Shelian Roberts lamented: “Road not even open officially and you drive on it like mad man, killing three men, and man short already a Jamaica. Smh.”