Teen cousins die in fiery bike crash after warning ignored
PETERSFIELD, Westmoreland — Parents and teachers of two teenage cousins who died in a fiery crash on their way to Petersfield High School Tuesday are baffled that they were travelling on a motorcycle.
It is against school rules, and one boy’s mother had warned him not to ride a bike to school. He promised her he would not. The deaths are particularly difficult as the Westmoreland school is still mourning the loss of a 15-year old girl who died in a five-fatality crash on November 13. All three were in fourth form.
“We are coming out of a week of prayer; we are a praying school. We had a brief devotion and we prayed with the general student body,” said Acting Principal Vinton Vaz.
He described students and teachers as traumatised but said they had been receiving support provided by the education ministry.
According to Vaz, the school has zero tolerance for students driving a bike to school.
“It is banned from the school. We do not condone it, and they cannot park the bike on the school compound or anywhere that we are aware,” said the acting principal.
He said one of the boys’ parents had been called in prior to the incident when they learnt that the student was driving a bike to school.
Vaz also noted that just two weeks ago the Transport Authority and the Island Traffic Authority had engaged with students and hosted a sensitisation workshop.
Sixteen-year-old Ajani Robinson and 14-year-old Zakeal McIntyre are just the latest in a long list of Westmoreland road fatalities that involve bikes. The parish has a bike taxi culture and for years has led the rest of the country in road fatalities, despite frequent training sessions and free safety equipment. So, Angella Hewitt was understandably reluctant for her son to use that method of transportation. After a friend told her Robinson, who is affectionately called JJ, was riding a bike to school, she said on Tuesday she confronted him. He denied it.
“Me say ‘JJ don’t ride nuh bike go a school’ and a dis morning mi a hear seh him dead off a bike,” the distressed mother added, saying that she was unaware how he came by the bike.
In reacting to the boys’ deaths, president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association Leighton Johnson said it underscores “the urgent need for us to implement a rural school bus system that will assist in ensuring that our students will commute to school on a daily basis in a manner that is safe”.
But Robinson’s mother said she had told him to take the school bus. He just didn’t listen.
His cousin Finsise Reid, who confirmed that there is a school bus that transports Petersfield High students to school from Darliston, was also left reeling from news of the fatal crash.
And he struggled to accept that the teenager lied to him when they spoke on Sunday. They were at a funeral, he said, and he told Robinson to reduce his speed when travelling on the motorcycle, and not to ride it to school.
“Him say him park the bike a Darliston so when me hear this morning, mi frighten say him tell mi lie,” Reid added.
The Whithorn police reported that about 6:50 am Robinson and McIntyre were travelling on a motorcycle heading northerly along the Petersfield Main Road when the driver lost control while negotiating a corner.
The teens then collided into a motor car, which caught fire. The police were summoned and the boys were transported to hospital where they were pronounced dead.