THE entertainment fraternity is mourning the loss of a popular figure, Neil “Dagga Ras” Gardener, road manager of independent label Frenz for Real.
He died during a major crash along the PJ Patterson Highway on Wednesday involving a Toyota Coaster bus and a Nissan Allion motor car.
Four other persons were seriously injured.
“He was our road manager for Frenz for Real. He was very jovial, a comedian, a hard worker who loved what he did. This is a big loss for the company. He is the main road man for us, once any song to promote, he was the man, he spread the Frenz for Real name all over Jamaica. Every tour we planned to go on, this is the main man we wanted with us, so this is really hard to deal with,” Omar “Benji” Benjamin, head of independent label Frenz For Real, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“Dagga Ras was very close to Popcaan. He and Popcaan come from St Thomas. Him jerk pork for Popcaan...a lot of artistes posted him on IG, Intence, Natty King, Rytikal, Teejay. I used to know him as a driver for Natty King as they both come from St Thomas. He knows Jamaica like the back of his hand. He was great when it comes to road; he was the king for it. This is a major loss,” Benjamin continued.
The label head said the tragedy is made even more raw by the fact that Gardener's mother had travelled from the US to Jamaica to surprise him.
“His mother lives in the USA and she and his sister fly down to surprise him the same Wednesday he died, and he hadn't seen her in a while. She came down to buy a car, she even came to the studio to see him but he had already gone to Clarendon in the morning and he was on the way back. She had planned to buy the car. The only thing left to buy was the bow for the car. His mother knew it was driving he did for a living. Ah Beenie Man had to hold up the lady...it is a big loss. He works for almost every artiste, every artiste, Frenz for Real.Even when Intence and Iwaata first buss, him drive dem go everywhere. Everybody know him, even a sound man from Israel call me say they remembered him...everybody feel it,” said Benjamin.
Dancehall star Intence mentioned Dagga Ras's name in his song Dream Life.
“The driver crashed off a 600cc bike recently and he broke his foot. He was carrying a bike to a bike shop and a car lick him and he broke the same foot,” said Benjamin.
“He was so strong, even after he broke his foot, he healed really quickly. Every time he crashed is someone else always lick him. He goes over the island day to day, he is an experienced driver. He does errands for artistes, he was tireless — he would go to Negril even two times in one day. Nowhere was too far for him to go. He is survived by at least three kids,” he continued.
Video footage emerged from last Wednesday's carnage with bleeding commuters strewn over the grassy rise while passers-by helped others from the wreckage of the overturned bus. There was one body which lay lifeless on the road, apparently the driver of the Toyota involved in the crash.
Reports are that about 12:40 pm, a Toyota Coaster bus and the Toyota Allion were in the east-bound-lane when the crash happened near the Spanish Town exit in the vicinity of the March Pen bridge. The bus hit a reversing motor vehicle, rammed into the median and overturned in a ditch.
There were approximately 30 people aboard the bus at the time of the crash. There have been 25 fatalities from road crashes across Jamaica since the start of the year.