CHRISTIANA, Manchester — The driver of one the minibuses involved in Wednesday's deadly crash in Chudleigh, which resulted in the deaths of four students of the Holmwood Technical High School and injury of several others, has been hit with manslaughter charges.
Omar Bennett was remanded into custody yesterday when he appeared before the Mandeville Resident Magistrate's Court. He is scheduled to make an appearance in the Christiana RM Court today.
Yesterday, the police alleged that Bennett had amassed 116 traffic tickets in 2010 alone while the driver of the second minibus, who has not been charged, racked up 106 in the same year.
Kimona Levy, Shaneka Muschette, Okeen Gordon, and Tameka Peart died from injuries they received when the two minibuses in which they and more than 30 other students were travelling from Mandeville to Christiana collided with a truck in the Chudleigh area. Five students remained in hospital up until press time last night.
On Wednesday, the police alleged that improper overtaking was the cause of the crash, which was the latest of several serious accidents involving public passenger vehicles transporting Holmwood students to school.
The incident has also renewed calls for a regulated rural school bus system. Following the fatal crash, the State-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company, at the of request of Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, deployed two buses on the Mandeville to Christiana route to specifically transport schoolchildren.
Thwaites, who, along with Member of Parliament for North East Manchester Audley Shaw, National Co-ordinator of the Safe Schools Programme Sergeant Coleridge Minto, and members of the clergy, among others, attended a specially-arranged devotion at the school -- said the short-term deployment was all the Government could afford now.
"There is need for more but you have to understand that subsidies are not possible nowadays. Therefore, the JUTC has to do what it can afford to do," he said, noting that he would make a request for the buses to remain on the route "until we work out a more durable system".
Yesterday, an air of sadness remained over the school, with many students finding it difficult to come to grips with the tragedy.
At the devotion, Thwaites and Shaw impressed upon the students the need for them to be more responsible regarding their choice of transport.
"One of the most distressing things we heard this morning was the head of the Southern Region for the Transport Authority saying that officers had to virtually cajole students to get into the JUTC bus in Mandeville. We have to change that culture, that whole mindset," said Thwaites.
"You have to become a part of the solution. This is becoming an unfortunate recurring decimal, also an unacceptable recurring decimal," added Shaw.
Meanwhile, some Holmwood students believe a regulated bus system would work.
"Just like how the students co-operate with the school rule I think they will (co-operate with a regulated bus system) if the teachers or the principal enforce that," said fifth form student Dwayne Blackwood.