'Safe travel' — firefighter's last words to colleagues who perished in crashMonday, September 20, 2021
BY HORACE MILLS
OCHO RIOS, St Ann — A young firefighter, Nicholas Nelson, broke down in tears as he recounted the final moments he spent with two colleagues who lost their lives in a motor vehicle crash minutes after they dropped him home and he wished them a safe trip.
They took him home after completing their shift at the Ocho Rios Fire Station in St Ann last Monday night, September 13.
Nelson recalled encouraging his colleagues to travel safely as the Toyota Corolla Axio motor car in which they were travelling drove off.
“It is sad that the last thing I said to them was 'Safe travel'. That was the last thing I said to them,” he told the Jamaica Observer late last week.
About 30 minutes later, Nelson was jolted by a phone call about the demise of his colleagues — Stefan Walters who is originally from Steer Town in St Ann, and Alex Williams from Willowdene in the Spanish Town area of St Catherine.
The car they were in crashed with another in the vicinity of the Laughland Post Office in St Ann.
“That was a lot to bear,” Nelson declared, adding that he did not visit the crash scene due to a lack of transportation.
“The night it happened, I could not sleep. It was hard to actually close my eyes; it is still not easy,” he told the Observer.
Nelson, who started working at the Ocho Rios Fire Station a year ago, said he had developed a brotherly bond with Williams and Walters.
“I have come to know them not as colleagues, but as friends and as brothers. All of us cling [together] as brothers, as a unit, as a body,” he added.
Nelson disclosed that Walters was usually willing to drop him home during curfews and lockdowns, which the Government recently put in place to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On the night of the crash a lockdown was in effect, and so Nelson was left without access to public transportation.
“When I come to work and know that the country is under curfew or lockdown on that particular day, I usually ask him [Walters] to come and pick me up. If it is a lockdown, he usually carry me back home because he lives close to where I live,” Nelson explained.
He said the lockdown was among the last topics raised with his late colleagues. Walters, he said, was inquiring when the lockdowns would end.
The transportation woes that sometimes hit Nelson and other firefighters has not gone unnoticed since the death of Walters and Williams.
Four days after the crash, minister responsible for the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Desmond McKenzie announced that discussions are taking place in a bid to address the situation.
He made the disclosure last Friday while visiting grieving personnel at the Ocho Rios Fire Station.
The announcement is long-overdue but welcomed, Nelson told the Observer in an exclusive interview.
“It is so sad that something has to happen for something to be implemented and put in place when it should have been done long time...” he further reasoned. “Not everyone drives. Some of us come to work by foot. When the country is on a lockdown...We are civil servants, we are front line workers... It is difficult to come to work because there are no taxis on the road to carry us to work. It's risky for us.”
Nelson, in the meantime, is not the only firefighter who seems deflated by the tragedy.