BY KARYL WALKER Associate editor — Crime/court desk email@example.com
RELATIVES and friends of a Jamaican woman who was killed last month after a US soldier sped down the wrong side of a New York state highway and rammed the vehicle in which she was travelling are feeling short done by the manner in which her death is being treated in that country.
Carol Dion was killed in a fiery crash after 43-year-old Julian With, who served the US Army in Iraq, drove north on a southbound highway between Interstate 87, exits 21 and 21B in the town of Coxsackie, New York.
With's Ford Fusion exploded in flames after it collided with a sports utility vehicle being driven by 39-year-old Karen Weller of Ontario, Canada. Dion, 50, also of Ontario, was a passenger in Weller's vehicle.
With and Dion were pronounced dead at the scene. Weller and her four-month old son, Tajaye, were injured.
Since the incident, reports have surfaced that With was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) due to his horrific experience on the battlefields of Iraq.
On that fateful day, he had reportedly decided to end his life by driving down the wrong side of the road.
Tributes have been pouring in for the US army war vet but those close to Dion feel aggrieved that scant attention has been paid to their loss.
Her sister Cynthia Barnes was livid when she spoke with the Jamaica Observer.
"I think my sister was murdered. That guy lived in the area and knew the place. It was not a mistake. The police held unto him and let him go when they knew that he had a problem.
"Carol drove that route all the time from Canada to look for us with no problems. Carol was such a loving and caring person. Now he's left my family and friends in such pain," Barnes said.
Ena Smith is a Jamaican who resides in New Jersey and says Dion was her adopted sister. Smith, too, was hard-hit by the loss, especially because it seems to have gone unnoticed and all the attention is being paid to With and his mental condition.
"We, the family and friends of Carol Barnes-Dion, feel as though Julian With -- the veteran driving on the opposite side of the highway -- is being portrayed as a hero, while in our minds, he was Carol's murderer. That Iraq war veteran deliberately drove on the wrong side of the road to commit suicide and take the lives of others with him. He attempted the same thing hours before the incident but was pulled off the road by authorities. We feel that anyone who is noted to be a danger to himself, or herself, and others, should not be allowed in public. He behaved exactly like the terrorists he fought in Iraq," Smith told the Sunday Observer.
PSTD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. It may involve the threat of suicide or causing harm to someone else. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks or nightmares, difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance.
Recent studies have shown that a number of US veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD. Haunted by the brutality of the combat on the battlefield and the horror they inflict on the civilians, US soldiers sometimes return home and receive no treatment for their condition, go undiagnosed, or face an intolerant military culture in which they hide their condition because the stigma of PTSD and other mental disorders still persists.
PTSD victims are often unable to hold down jobs, are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, have relationship problems, and suffer from insomnia and depression.
In With's case it's reported that he had been arrested for domestic abuse and was released after he posted a US$5,000-bond.
But Smith is not impressed.
"To make matters worse, Carol was hardly mentioned in some of the news reports, the focus was on this great American hero. They acted as if she was just another roadkill, a mere animal getting killed on the highway.
"I do respect and honour these soldiers who go out on a limb for America, but when they return with PTSD, they should be treated and not be allowed to harm the general public,' she said.
Michelle Sukie, Dion's close associate, was also upset at the way the incident was being handled.
"It's a certain unfairness I'll never be able to understand. Why couldn't he have driven himself into a tree? It was mentioned that someone alerted law enforcement just after midnight, the accident was at 1:00am. Come on, where were the cops? They released this idiot without proper psychiatric evaluation and failed him, thus failing precious Carol," Sukie said.