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Accident leaves five confirmed dead, 14 injured and two missing

Accident leaves five confirmed dead, 14 injured and two missing

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Emotions ran high in the North Windward village of Owia yesterday, as persons there tried to make sense of the tragedy that up to press time, had claimed the lives of five young persons.

The five, names given as Rochelle Ashton 18, Jamalie Edwards 14, Jamal Edwards 12, Glenroy Michael 12, and Anique Alexander 11, died when the passenger van they were travelling in,{{more}} plunged over the side of the road in an area known as Rock Gutter, into the Atlantic Ocean.

Apart from those confirmed dead, two persons are still unaccounted for: Simonique Ballantyne, the daughter of Station Sergeant Hezron Ballantyne and Chantacia Stay.

14 others were warded at hospitals: 10 at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, and four at the Georgetown Hospital.

The vehicle, registration number HL636, which was owned by the Fancy Apostolic Faith Mission and driven by Ravanan Nanton, reportedly left the village of Fancy sometime after 6 a.m. on the fateful morning.

An Owia resident, who was one of the first persons to arrive at the scene, told SEARCHLIGHT that he heard what sounded like an explosion between 6:40 and 6:45 that morning, and shortly afterwards, someone came bearing the heartbreaking news.

“A guy came down and say something run off round the road and when I go round the road I saw my cousin; she is a staff nurse and two guys was holding she, and she say the van she was riding in run off the road, and she was wet and bloody and they carry she up by the clinic and then after some other persons transported injured people.”

The individual said that he saw persons in the van, which was at that time upright, and also saw bodies floating in the water.

“When I get there, a guy was under the van and I saw a young child was stuck between the rocks and swells was beating him and it have a young kid who was swimming out of the rough waters on the shoreline.

“Then a boat from the neighbourhood came and picked up the young fella who was swimming out, and picked up a dead body,” he recalled.

“It was just tragic.”

When SEARCHLIGHT arrived at the scene, the van was already torn to pieces by the force of the waves, and efforts were underway to recover the bodies that remained in the choppy waters.

Divers from the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Coastguard were out searching for the victims, most of whom were washed ashore after being tossed about and pounded against the rocks and boulders on the shore.

Four of the five deceased were pulled ashore by persons who braved the raging waves, an effort which was praised by the hundreds of persons from the surrounding villages and those who rushed to the area upon hearing the tragic news.

As the bodies were brought back to land, cheers of relief and gratitude went up among the crowd, but the cheers quickly turned to wails of anguish, as family members and friends got a closer look at the bodies, and were able to identify the persons who were recovered.

The area was visited by members of Cabinet and Parliament, who turned up to provide support to grieving family members and offer support, after the 2015 Budget presentation, which had been scheduled for yesterday, was postponed until today.

Parliamentarians present included Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves; Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace; Girlyn Miguel; Montgomery Daniel, the area representative; Camillo Gonsalves; Frederick Stephenson; St Clair Leacock; Daniel Cummings; Vynnette Frederick; and Saboto Caesar.

Principals and head teachers of schools from around the country also travelled north to show solidarity with educators who were affected by the tragedy.

Also making the trip north were counsellors and other officials from the Ministries of Education and National Mobilization/Social Development, who comforted, prayed with, and offered support to persons shaken up by the disaster.

While speculations abound as to what caused the tragedy, and if, or how it could have been avoided, police indicate that investigations into the matter are continuing.

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