Taxi-driver accused of slapping wheelchair bound man at AIA
Police are said to be investigating an incident in which a visitor was allegedly assaulted by a tourism authority approved taxi-driver stationed at the Argyle International Airport (AIA).
On Tuesday at about 6 p.m. at the AIA, the visitor, who was in-transit to Grenada, became involved in an argument with Harold “Nancy” Fernandez, an experienced taxi-driver over the fare that was charged.
The taxi-driver is alleged to have slapped the wheelchair bound man twice in his face before other taxi drivers intervened to stop the melee.
On Thursday, SEARCHLIGHT spoke with Fernandez who admitted that he was involved in an altercation with the visitor, but denied slapping the Japanese man.
Fernandez said when the visitor came off the plane, he was the next taxi in line, and he was engaged by the visitor at about 1:50 p.m. to take him to Kingstown to spend some time before his evening flight to Grenada.
According to Fernandez, the visitor said he would like to see parts of the country in the little time he had. The taxi driver said he showed the man a map and told him that to travel to Kingstown and back to the AIA would cost EC$160, but a three hour tour would cost US$75 (US$25 per hour).
The experienced taxi driver said that he took the man to Fort Charlotte, the Botanic Gardens and also to Campden Park and Cane Garden, then for something to eat.
Fernandez said when he returned to the AIA, the visitor gave him EC$150, but he refused to take it, telling the man that the money was short by EC$10 and the three-hour tour was valued at US$75, money to be paid separately.
Fernandez said the visitor refused to pay him, so he placed the man’s bag in his vehicle and closed the door while demanding his money.
He said that the visitor became angry and shoved him so he pushed him back, after which other taxi drivers intervened. He said that he never struck the man in his face.
Other taxi operators are said to have heard the visitor screaming and ran to his assistance after which security and other officials at the AIA were called in.
Reports are that the visitor said that he has never been struck in his face in his life and he intends to press charges and involve the international media.
Fernandez was subsequently paid $250 by the visitor.
The taxi driver said later that night around 8 p.m., he was at home when the police came and took him to the Calliaqua Police Station, charged him with assaulting the man and kept him at the station until Thursday when he was taken to court, charged with common assault and given bail in the amount of $1,000.
“I am a diabetic and I have hypertension and I was there whole night. Nancy is one of the best man out there (at the AIA),” said Fernandez who added that he has received praises on many occasions from foreigners for the good work he does as a taxi driver.
On Thursday, chief executive officer of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA) Glen Beache said he was not fully briefed and was awaiting the police report. He said that the taxi driver has been suspended from operating at the AIA pending the outcome of the investigation.
Chief executive officer at the AIA Hadley Bourne and head of security Keith Miller are said to have visited the scene of the incident where they spoke to the parties involved. Bourne told SEARCHLIGHT on Thursday that the matter is under investigation by the police, so he cannot comment extensively on what happened. He however noted that the AIA issued a letter of apology to the traveller.
President of the SVG Taxi Drivers Association Winston “Pops” Morgan said Fernandez is not a member of the Association.
He however said that the Association frowns on incidents of this nature and condemns violence in any form. Morgan noted also that taxi drivers should settle disputes in a professional manner and striking a client can never be right.
This is reportedly the second time that Fernandez has been suspended from operating from the AIA.