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Trini designer in crash may take SVG to court

Trini designer in crash may take SVG to court

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The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) may face legal action from Trinidadian designer Ecliff Elie, after claims that he was mistreated here on Monday, March 27, after being involved in a vehicular accident in which one man died.

Elie, who was in SVG for Image Modelling Agency’s show, Fashion Caribbean, the previous Saturday, had gone to a popular liming spot and on his way back to his hotel, the vehicle in which he was travelling, a white Suzuki Swift P4686, driven by Murray’s Village resident Alvin Bacchus, ran off the road at Ratho Mill.

The accident took place at around 2.30 a.m. and Bacchus died on the spot.

Elie, the only other passenger in the vehicle, told Trinidad’s CCN TV6 in an interview on Wednesday that what happened after the accident was another nightmare, as he was taken to the Calliaqua Police Station, where he was denied medical attention for five hours while being interrogated.

“I was treated like a criminal,” Elie told the television station.

The fashion designer said he was being given a ride back to the Grenadine House hotel at Kingstown Park when the vehicle ended up over an embankment.

He said that he reached out to Bacchus after the crash and Bacchus was unresponsive, so he decided to get out of the vehicle to look for help. Elie said while he was wearing his seatbelt, Bacchus was not.

He ran to a nearby hotel, where someone called the police. He said when police officers arrived on the scene, they asked him to wait in the police vehicle, after which he was whisked away to the police station at Calliaqua.

He said that soon after arriving at the station, his cellular phone was confiscated and he was told that he was being investigated as a suspect in the crash.

“…I confused, because I just see somebody loss their life,” said the designer, who was featured on Fashion Caribbean show that took place on Saturday, March 25. He revealed that he was kept for five hours at the station and not allowed medical attention, although he complained of pain.

He said that when he was eventually taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), he was escorted under heavy police guard, “like a criminal.”

At the MCMH, Elie was told that he had suffered whiplash and that he needed rest, but despite this, he said that the police parked somewhere in Kingstown for an hour and left him sitting in the vehicle in severe pain, while they went about their business.

He said after that, he was taken back to the police station and never given a phone call. Now, he is calling on the Trinidad and Tobago government to look into the matter, as he was mistreated for no reason. He is also exploring the possibility of taking legal action.

“It could have been worse. I am happy to be alive and make it back,” Elie said in the interview, noting that although he did not know Bacchus, his condolences go out to the family of the deceased.

Elie was released on Tuesday night in the care of Monique Arthur, the managing director of Image Modelling Agency, and given a verbal apology by the police.

Speaking on BOOM SVG 106.9 FM to host Dwight “Bing” Joseph on his OMG in the Morning programme on Thursday, Arthur said that the way that Elie was treated has damaged her brand in the eyes of regional media and other foreign designers and she doubts that the Fashion Caribbean show will ever be held here again.

She said that when she learnt that Elie had been involved in a crash and was at the police station, she contacted lawyer Ronnie Marks and visited the Calliaqua station.

She said that it was hours before the situation was cleared up and after, it seemed as though the police officers were trying to do damage control.

“At no time nobody said let me contact Monique to see who he (Elie) is… the police never spoke to me…nobody came to me,” said Arthur, who noted that someone commented that the crash looked “fishy,” so they needed to check all their bases.

Arthur said that when Elie told the police that he did not know Bacchus, the police questioned him as to why he got into a vehicle with someone he didn’t know.

She said that Elie was rudely spoken to, and at one point an officer told him to sit down and shut up when he complained of pain.

Arthur said that Elie’s experience has received a lot of negative press by visiting media and other designers and it has shed a bad light on the country and the Fashion Caribbean brand, although Elie said that Image Modelling Agency treated him well.

She said that many of the other designers have said that they are not going to come back to SVG and despite the negative publicity, no government official has reached out to her to find out what happened.

Arthur noted, however, that throughout the ordeal she did receive support from Commissioner of Police (COP) Renold Hadaway and Deputy COP Colin John, who explained to her what was happening.

“It is not easy to see a big man cry and hug you and bawling and saying he was not driving,” Arthur said of Elie’s state when he was eventually released.

“I am really, really embarrassed. I don’t know how to reach out to these people (other designers). I was relieved to get him on a flight and get him to leave yesterday (Wednesday) morning,” stressed Arthur, who

noted that Elie had planned to visit the Grenadines for business, but ended up leaving the country.

“I do not know how to approach any designer, any press to come back for Fashion Caribbean, because they are uncomfortable. I don’t know where we go from here. That is the end of Fashion Caribbean; we cannot be humiliated like this. I do not want to take the chance,” Arthur told Joseph live on air.

Lawyer Ronnie Marks said on Thursday that he was disappointed by the way Elie was treated and in his opinion, the way the police operated shows a lack of protocol in dealing with matters of this nature.

He said that while you cannot fully blame the police for detaining Elie because of the fact that he was someone they did not know, they should have made sure he had medical attention while they investigated.

Marks said that he had to plead with them to take Elie to the MCMH and at one point one of the officers was watching cricket while Elie complained to him of severe pain and the officer “sucked his teeth.”

“It was a real mess….it was not properly handled and they need to put provisions in place where police are given a protocol to follow. We have to treat everybody equally, no matter who they are,” said Marks, who thinks that common sense should have told officers to make sure that Elie was okay while doing their investigations.

“If the man died, it would have opened up the government to liability,” stressed Marks.

COP Hadaway could not be reached for a comment on Thursday, neither could head of the Police Public Relations and Complaints Department Inspector Hawkins Nanton.

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