Father of Rock Gutter victim says he respects magistrate’s decision
Inspector in the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) Hezron Ballantyne says that he respects the decision by Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias to dismiss the seven involuntary manslaughter charges related to the 2015 Rock Gutter accident.
Inspector Ballantyne is the father of Simonique Ballantyne, one of seven students who died on January 12, 2015, when minibus HL636, in which she was travelling, plunged into the sea at Rock Gutter.
The other six students are Racquel Ashton, Chanstacia Stay, Glenroy Michael, Jamall and Jamalie Edwards and Anique Alexander. Ballantyne and Stay were never recovered from the waters and they are presumed dead.
Last Friday, two men, Pastor Ehud Myers and chauffeur Davanan Nanton were freed of seven counts of involuntary manslaughter after Browne-Matthias upheld the no case submission made by their lawyers Grant Connell and Israel Bruce.
Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, Inspector Ballantyne said that based on the evidence that was presented to Browne-Matthias, she decided to uphold the no case submission made by the defence and that is something that he must respect.
âI know that some of the parents would not accept it because of the emotions involved and more so because they heard from other persons that the vehicle had problems,â said the bereaved father who said he misses his daughter a lot.
Ballantyne said that there is a lot of talk as to what happened on that fateful day even though the persons involved are saying that nothing was wrong with the vehicle.
On Tuesday, December 3, 2015, a month-long Coronerâs Inquest into the incident revealed that the persons responsible for the minivan had been given several warnings to take the vehicle off the road.
Ballantyne said that while the evidence presented at the coronerâs inquest was sufficient to get the case to the stage of Preliminary Inquiry (PI), what was observed is that all the evidence that was provided at the Coronerâs Inquest, was not all presented at the PI.
ââ¦should that evidence [have] presented itself [at the PI], I think that it (the case) would have taken on a different turn,â offered Ballantyne.
He noted that at this point, his major concern is whether the persons involved were truthful to the police and investigating officers in relation to the condition of the vehicle.
He added, âthe thing is, you can forgive but it is difficult to forget, forgiveness comes from the Almighty.â
Myers and Nanton were charged, along with head teacher of the Fancy Government School Colbert Bowens; however, the charges were withdrawn against Bowens on May 3, 2016.
During his no case submission on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, lawyer Grant Connell, who represented Myers, told the court that absolutely no evidence was presented to prove that Myers caused the death of the students by omission.
Last Friday, March 31, the Chief Magistrate, in giving her ruling, pointed out that the prosecutionâs case was that the accused caused the death of the students by omission; however, the defence submitted that the Crown has not proven its case.
She agreed with the prosecution and ruled that the court upheld the defenseâs submission that there was no case to answer.