Kendal crash survivor reflects on his move to 'miraculous coach'

Kendal crash survivor reflects on his move to 'miraculous coach'

Today marks 62nd anniversary of horrific train crash

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
STAFF REPORTER
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 01, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Retiree Leroy Brown said he has had a long career in human resources and industrial relations for large companies in Jamaica.

He has been a vice president of the Jamaica Employers Federation for many years, had a stint as chief executive officer of that organisation, been involved in sports as former president and now general secretary of the Jamaica Boxing Board, general secretary for Tennis Jamaica and a sports writer for The Gleaner newspaper.

He said that he was also involved in track and field as a youngster.

“I have done well I must say,” Brown said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, ahead of today's 62nd anniversary of the Kendal Crash and his near-death experience in his youth as a passenger on the ill-fated train.

He said that he was reflecting on his life with immense gratitude because he and his two brothers were unscathed physically from the incident, though for about two weeks after there were bouts of flashback and sleeplessness.

“As I look back I think how grateful we were to survive and go on to live full lives,” he said.

One brother worked in the communications industry in Jamaica and is now practising his craft in the United States and the other, now deceased, was a banker in the United States.

Brown said he was a teenager and an altar boy at St Anne's Catholic Church in Kingston, which had an excursion on September 1, 1957 from Kingston to Montego Bay.

On the return leg of the trip that was much excitement for them, the train on which Brown and hundreds of other passengers were travelling derailed in Kendal, leaving approximately 200 people dead and many others injured.

The impact of the crash was not only felt in Jamaica but received international attention.

The victims who died were reportedly so badly damaged that they were unrecognisable and as such, all were buried in unmarked graves in Kendal.

Brown believes his life was saved because he left from one coach to another because of “troublemakers,” who came on the train and started creating problems for the roughly 15 members of his peer group who were in that coach.

He is now describing the new coach he selected as a “miraculous coach.”

Brown said that the coach he left was one of the most seriously damaged and the one girl from his group who stayed, despite the problems from the other persons who came on the train, lost her life along with those occupants.

The train was reportedly transporting some 1, 600 people.

There are accounts that the crash was due to a failure of the train's braking system.

Some believe that the brake failure was a result of interference from vandals who came on the train.

The Manchester Municipal Corporation is now on a quest to develop the area by putting in a monument and establishing it as a memorial park.

Over time, it is expected to become a recognised tourist attraction and improve the social and economic potential of the general Kendal area.

“I think it is an excellent idea. It is sad, but an important part of our history. (In recording history) we do not only commemorate success but tribulations,” said Brown.

Today, for the second year, a memorial service in is being held at the Kendal Missionary Church in Manchester.

A planned candlelight vigil, which was scheduled to also take place last night was cancelled.

September 1 was officially declared as Kendal Crash Day by Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange on the 60th anniversary in 2017, to remember those who died in the tragedy.


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