MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Okeeno Maraco Carey had injuries of his own, but his first thought after scrambling from the crashed bus in which he was a passenger earlier this year, was to help those who were with him in the ill-fated vehicle.
He was the first to exit and he immediately went to work pulling the others out.
For his deed, the 13-year-old Christiana High School student has gained official recognition and was on National Heroes' Day, October 15 — also his birthday — presented with the award for bravery during a civic ceremony at the Cecil Charlton Park in this south central town.
He was hailed for displaying "composure, compassion, determination and bravery" in the aftermath of the two-vehicle collision on the Pen Hill Road (Shooters Hill) in Manchester in February. Both buses were transporting mainly students to schools in north-east Manchester and in and around Mandeville. Approximately 44 persons had to seek medical attention and a female nursing student of Northern Caribbean University later succumbed to her injuries.
"Within minutes, he was the first to exit the bus and, having recognised that the driver needed help, he tried to pull him out but was not successful. With quick thinking, he rushed to the back of the bus and opened the door in an effort to release the other passengers who were traumatised. Some appeared to be hurt to the point where they had to be helped out of the bus. While waiting for emergency services and additional help to arrive, Okeeno sought to console and ensure the comfort of the other passengers as much as was possible," the citation to Carey read.
"I would do it again," the youngster told the Jamaica Observer Central. He added, however, that he would not want to be in another accident.
The boy, who has ambitions of becoming a mechanical engineer, is now grappling with scars from the crash; he says he sometimes sees "fog and doubles" from his left eye. His mother, Noshea Rowe, who told the paper that her son suffered blows to the bridge of his nose and the side of his head in the incident, said she has been advised that he will need prescription glasses to correct the problems with his vision.
She said she is scared for her son who still takes public transportation from his home in Mandeville to school in Christiana.
Of the gallantry he displayed on the scene of the crash, Rowe said she was not surprised that her son took the initiative to help others because he has always acted more mature than his age.
Carey was among 11 awardees recognised for exemplary service in varying areas at the ceremony in Mandeville. The others were: Dr Christopher Fletcher, health and bravery; Superintendent Lascelles Taylor, national security; Durcy Burton, education; Mellissa Matthie, community development; Astley Smith, community service; Yvonne Pitter, health; Annette Powell, education; Henneritta Campbell, agriculture; Dorothy Miller, community service; and Grace Mullings, education.
Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay, in delivering a message on behalf of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, praised the awardees and said no society could survive without people of their ilk who were committed and willing to make sacrifices.
"One does not become a hero by doing the easy things; it is by doing the extraordinary things. Today, I salute volunteerism, commitment and sacrifice," she said.