Portmore tragedy: Boy’s death in bus crash sparks transport anger
Boy crushed in bus spill Conflicting stories of chaseTuesday, May 29, 2012
BY COREY ROBINSON Observer staff reporter email@example.com
DEATH struck Opal Kerr’s family yesterday — the second time in a few weeks — taking her 15-year-old son Lennox Lloyd in a bizarre early morning bus crash that has inflamed passions over the antagonistic relationship between Transport Authority officers and the operators of public passenger vehicles.
Kerr learnt via a gutwrenching phone call that her son — an eighth grade student at Ascot High School — was crushed when the crammed bus in which he and other students were travelling overturned near the Maxi Department Store, opposite to Portmore Mall in St Catherine, about 8:00 am.
The tragic news made her numb, because just two Sundays ago her family buried a relative.
One by one Lennox’s relatives collapsed in grief as they turned up at the scene to see his body sprawled on its stomach beside the bus.
People claiming to be eyewitnesses said he was thrown from the vehicle when it overturned in an open lot, allegedly after hitting an embankment.
Lennox’s skull was cracked open, reportedly by the bus which fell on top of him. He died shortly after in the presence of early onlookers who claimed he was still breathing minutes after the accident.
Three female Ascot students were also injured in the crash. They have been hospitalised in serious condition, school authorities said.
The grieving mother, torn by the sight of her dead child, held her belly and wept. She was too shaken to speak, so her sister, Tracey Kerr, told of the last interaction she had with her nephew.
"When I left this morning Lennox was polishing his shoes to go to school. When I saw him cleaning the shoes I asked him if he had woken up his sister and he said that ‘she soon wake up’, and I said alright and went into my room. That was the last I spoke to him," said Tracey Kerr as she consoled her sister.
Yesterday, as police officers processed the scene, grief and anger engulfed the crowd of onlookers, particularly minibus and taxi operators.
According to people claiming to be eyewitnesses, the crash occurred as the bus driver — who fled the scene shortly after the spill — attempted to elude Transport Authority officers, who were travelling in another minivan.
One man alleged that the Transport Authority workers, with the aid of a wrecker, tried to corner the packed bus, forcing the driver to swerve to avoid a collision.
The man declined to be named but said he was one of the first persons on the scene. He also alleged that Transport Authority workers tried to "cover up" what happened.
"The first thing the (Transport Authority) lady said to me was ‘you know me good and we grew up together’, and I kissed my teeth and walked away," he said. "The second thing she said was that she wasn’t chasing the bus; that is the first lie. Because she knew they were chasing the bus and then they moved the wrecker from where it was parked. I don’t even know where they took the wrecker."
His story was supported by a Ascot High student, who claimed he was a passenger in the bus at the time of the crash. The student said the bus overturned after its front tyre hit a curb wall while being chased by a Transport Authority vehicle.
He said that Lennox, his friend, died after he was thrown from the vehicle.
Minibus and taxi operators also claimed it was common for Transport Authority officers to chase public transportation operators in the area where the crash occurred.
But yesterday, head of the Police Traffic Department, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, denied that there was a chase.
"There was no chase. Apparently the man knew that the Transport Authority was carrying out an operation in the area and he made a dash for it," said Lewis, who is also a member of the Transport Authority board of directors.
"I am head of traffic and whether I was a member of the Transport Authority or not I would have to investigate it, and according to my investigations there was not a chase," he insisted.
Lewis’s response, however, did not sit well with members of the Road Taxi Association of Jamaica (RTAJ) who described the regulatory body as being out of control.
"Chasing PPV vehicles and the use of private wreckers to illegally block roads while carrying out their road operations has been a regular habit of the Transport Authority," RTAJ President Sophia Campbell stated in a release. "We are calling for an independent investigation to be launched immediately into the events of today’s (yesterday’s) accident due to the conflicting reports from the police that there was no chase," Campbell said, noting that reports from her organisation suggested otherwise.
Late yesterday evening, radio and television newscasts reported that the driver of the bus had turned himself in to the police.
Staff and students of Ascot High School, including Lennox’s classmates, were locked inside the institution in mourning yesterday. According to a woman, who identified herself as Lennox’s Spanish teacher, the incident "has really affected operations at the school for the day".