There was little sympathy for Kevin Smith, the so-called cult leader of Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, in Linstead, St Catherine, where he died after an unmarked police car in which he was being taken from Montego Bay to Kingston crashed yesterday morning.
Instead, people from nearby communities and travellers who converged on the scene were more concerned about the policeman who also died in the crash and his two colleagues who were taken to hospital in critical condition.
“I just wanted them to get the officers out and get them to hospital as fast as possible,” said a woman who told the Jamaica Observer that she lives in Middleton district in Linstead.
The woman, who opted not to be named, said that the noise from the crash had jolted her from sleep.
“After I got up, I came outside and I saw the accident, so I called my neighbour. I went up there and I noticed that it was a police escorting someone. I didn’t know who was in the car,” she said.
“While I was there looking, they took out the first officer and put him in the ambulance. He looked as if something was wrong with his side or him foot bruk because he couldn’t stand up and he was bleeding. Then they took out the driver, he was the other officer, and they put him on a stretcher and put him in the ambulance. When they took out the third officer; to me it looked as if he was dead, and then they took out the pastor last. They said it was whoever [Pastor Smith] from over that side [St James],” she related.
“I was just shocked, tru dem seh him come down from that side [St James], how him reach up here and where was he going? People didn’t have nothing good to say. I just wanted them to get the officers out and get them to hospital as fast as possible,” she added.
Another resident from Middleton district, who also requested anonymity, was equally puzzled about Smith being transported by police on that route.
“Mi a wonder why him a come da side here. How him reach all the way over here so,” she told the Observer.
Smith and four of his male congregants were in police custody from October 17 after two members of his church were killed, their throats slashed, in what was said to be a human sacrifice ritual.
A third member of the congregation was shot dead when the police, on entering the premises in Albion, St James, to rescue congregants, including children, were shot at.
Forty-two members of the congregation — 31 women and 11 men — as well as 14 children were taken into custody. The children were placed in State care, while the women and seven of the men were charged with breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act and granted bail.
Yesterday’s crash occurred about 9:30 am on the Linstead bypass near the Church Road intersection. Up to two hours later, a heavy police presence, a large crowd and three motor vehicles involved in the crash — the Corolla, a red Toyota Yaris, and a white Ford Ranger — where still at the scene.
In the early afternoon the police force identified the dead cop as 26-year-old Constable Orlando Irons of the Montego Bay Fugitive Apprehension Team. He and Smith were in the blue Toyota Corolla when it overturned.
Up to late yesterday the cause of the crash had not yet been determined.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay, Smith and one of his congregants were being taken from St James to Kingston to be formally charged at the Major Investigation Division.
“What we know is that the two suspects involved in the double murder investigation in St James were being taken to Kingston in two vehicles and being escorted by police officers. One vehicle was the pilot and the other vehicle was behind, and the vehicle that was behind, based on the account given by the pilot vehicle, there was a crashing sound and they realised that the vehicle overturned,” Lindsay, who heads the constabulary’s Corporate Communications Unit, said.
“We are not sure exactly what transpired. What we know is that from the vehicle that was overturned, there were four people that were seriously injured and two of them succumbed to their injuries,” she added.
“I am trying to get some additional information to see if it [the red Yaris] was a part of the accident. We know that the pilot vehicle was a marked service vehicle and driving behind it was an unmarked service vehicle. I understand that there was one other vehicle which is at the Linstead Police Station,” she told the Observer.
As police, firefighters and wrecker crews worked to remove the crashed vehicles, even during heavy showers, people stood by, some speaking in hushed tones, while others simply stared, their faces devoid of expression.
“Mi just come out here. Mi hear weh happen but mi hope the officers dem good, still,” said one man.
The crash triggered furious debate across the country with some people spouting conspiracy theories, especially on social media platforms.
In a video posted on Twitter from the crash scene, a woman was heard saying “A sign God a show yuh, ’cause ya gwan like yuh bigger than God.”
Another social media user, responding to the Observer‘s Instagram post of the crash, asked, “So why they took the bypass when the toll road is faster and easier to get to Kingston or Spanish Town?”
That was followed by another comment: “This just keeps getting weirder and weirder.”