Wrecked motor vehicle parts, slippers, and shattered glass lay at the side of Temple Hall main road in St Andrew mid-morning on Monday, evidence of a nasty crash Sunday night that claimed the lives of five young men, leaving their relatives in deep shock.
The fact that the five ranged in age from 17 to 24 years made the pain even more severe for their family members, whose screams had shattered the normally still night air in the rural St Andrew community.
“I couldn’t sleep because the wails and screams continued until 3:00 am because family members kept coming to identify their loved ones,” Bishop Dr Carla Dunbar, who lives close to the main road where the crash occurred, told the Jamaica Observer.
“I live right here; my daughter and I heard the collision a little after 9:00 pm and were the first on the scene, so we called the police. It’s an accident-prone area; this is not the first time an accident is happening,” she said.
Dr Dunbar, who is a psychologist, said she will be offering counselling to the bereaved relatives of the deceased who are from Border community in Lawrence Tavern, a few miles away from the crash scene.
Police report that 20-year-old Tajay Murray, 18-year-old Anthony Fuller, 20-year-old Raheem Campbell, 24-year-old Jamie Marriott, and 17-year-old Romario Moodie were travelling on three motorcycles.
Relatives and friends at the scene on Monday argued that the youngsters had swerved to avoid potholes and crashed into an oncoming Toyota Hiace bus.
The five youngsters died on the spot, while the bus driver was taken to hospital.
Police were unable to determine the veracity of the claim that the potholes played a role in the crash. However, investigators were seen examining skid marks on the road.
One relative, who gave her name as Hines Phipps, repeatedly mentioned that two of the dead youngsters — Campbell and Moodie — were her cousins; Marriott and Fuller, her nephews; and Murray her grandson, told the Observer that she was looking forward to them returning from a party they had attended at Stony Hill.
Phipps said, she had approved her grandson going to a small drink-up being held at the gate to their house but he told her that a friend of his was having a party at Stony Hill which he wanted to support.
“Mi say, ‘Make sure you come back at the gate’ and him say, ‘Yes, grandma’,” Phipps related.
However, later that night she received a video on her phone informing her of the crash.
“Mighty God, it nuh nice,” she said in a doleful tone.
“Is Saturday night mi and three of dem sleep inna the one room and dem wake up Sunday morning say dem a go fix and wash off the bikes,” said Hines.
A grandaunt of the young men who gave her name as Valerie Phipps, shared that other members of the family were too distraught to go to work and school.
“Mi feel like mi lost. When mi hear last night, a inna mi bed mi deh, ennu and mi granddaughter put on her clothes for work and still didn’t go. The next one nuh get up out her bed at all; is like dem shocked. Not even the other kids nuh gone school,” she said.
A cousin, who gave his name as Jah Jah, said, “I don’t even know how to feel. Mi and dem grow up together and sleep inna one room.”
A family friend, who gave his name only as James, was equally distraught.
“This is madness. All five a the man dem gone; this ah nuh something easy fi tek. The amount a people faint from last night when dem hear. You can know exactly what happened,” said James, as he pointed to the vehicles driving on the opposite side of the road towards incoming traffic to avoid potholes.
Another man added, “If there wasn’t any potholes there wouldn’t be an accident. It’s not the first this is happening. Yesterday I was going to a funeral and the vehicle almost collided at the same place. I said if they don’t come and fix these holes somebody is going to die.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary McKenzie, who heads the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, reiterated his appeal to motorists to drive carefully.
“The police continuously issue safety tips and appeal to road users to drive within the speed limit, exercise due care for other road users, and especially for motorcyclists and their pillions to be equipped and to utilize protective gear. It is quite unfortunate that five young men died in this manner,” he said.