THE last conscious words Kojanna Braham heard from her twin sister, Kojiann Braham, were: "Mi love my life," as she complained bitterly about their driver's reckless driving.
After that, there was a loud bang, followed by darkness.
The twins, along with a friend, travelled from their home in west Kingston to Salt River, Clarendon, for an excursion in 2019, just two weeks after their high school graduation. It was their second journey to the river in one day, after agreeing that the first trip was not worthwhile as a result of it being cut short.
But on their way back home the second time, tragedy struck when the taxi they were travelling in crashed on the Salt River Road near the busy St Catherine town of Old Harbour.
"It is very traumatising. Me and her bond. Although she a mi sister, she was like a mother to me. We have that bond… I tell her everything and she tell me everything. Now, she gone and a me one deh here. My mother can't cope. Every minute she cry and say she miss her daughter. When other people talk about their children she break down — even on the road. Sometimes I can't manage it but mi haffi try and calm her down," Kojanna, 20, recalled last Wednesday in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
"When we were leaving to go to Salt River, she looked at our mother and smiled. And my mother said 'A wah mek she a smile suh?' I never knew she was leaving us."
Speaking to the media for the first time since the tragic incident that happened when she was just 17, Kojanna said she and her sister, without much of a choice really, celebrated every birthday together.
But for the past three years, instead of wishing her other half a happy birthday, Kojanna has been left to tell her, "Rest in peace." Kojiann graduated from Innswood High School and was to be enrolled at Distinction College, to bring herself closer to her nursing dream.
Kojanna told the Sunday Observer that she clearly remembers everything that happened that day. It started when she called a male friend and asked if he could carry her, as well as her sister and another friend, to Salt River. They all agreed, and the young man borrowed a vehicle from his mother and they went.
But they ended up leaving earlier than expected.
"When wi reach down there, him mother call him and said she is going to need the vehicle to go to town. So, we went back over and my friend said to me 'You nuh have nuh taxi weh wi can charter fi guh down there? Because wi nuh get fi enjoy wi self or nothing.' So I said yes, and mi call the taxi man," Kojanna recalled.
She told the Sunday Observer that the plan worked out and they headed back to Salt River.
"Wi buy food and eat and guh into the water. When it was about 4 o'clock, the driver come call wi. He was on a call and was behaving upset. When he came off the call he said, 'Wi ready, because it a get dust down.' So, I said alright and I called my sister and her best friend. We came out of the water and dry off before we guh back in the car."
According to Kojanna, before they left the river the driver received another call and was visibly upset.
"On the way over, him a speed and mi sister seh, 'Hey, mi love my life enuh! Nuh badda speed wid me.' She told him to take time and drive and slow down, and he was there cussing same way on him phone. The way how him a behave, me and my friend a laugh. We take it for a joke and my sister serious."
Kojanna said her sister warned the driver another time — the last time. She said Kojiann bellowed: "Yuh nah slow down? Mi love my life," and immediately after that, there was a collision.
"Mi just hear boop and the car just a spin wid wi. All of us end up knockout in the car. When me wake up, mi see the driver a come out, then mi touch my sister best friend and she got up. Her foot was chopped out and showing the bone. My sister fold up like when you fold towel in two; her head fold go down to her toes. Her head was swelling," she said.
Kojanna said it immediately felt as though the sky was painted black. In her eyes, the sunny drive back home was no longer the reality.
"Wi a bawl and we pulled her out of the car. And nuff car a come and a try fi assist wi, and dem a tell mi fi talk to her. A bare blood a run from the front and back of her head. I was so traumatised. After the accident, it look like a night. Before, in the car, the place hot and sun a shine."
While they were out on the road waiting for help, Kojanna said her sister spoke to her in a way she never did before.
It went something like this:
Kojanna: "Wake up! Wake up!"
Kojiann: "Sister, I'm in pain. I'm feeling pain."
"A the first mi hear my sister talk [standard] English. I never yet hear she talk English. We end up rush with her to Lionel Town Hospital and they said they can't treat her. They rushed with her to May Pen Hospital," Kojanna told the Sunday Observer.
At May Pen Hospital she said she overheard doctors saying that her sister was going to die.
"That make it worse," she said.
Kojiann was then transported to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
"They did a brain scan and said her brain shifted. After that, she left from UWI and then reach a Kingston Public Hospital. They said her spine was damaged bad. Her neck was broken and she was paralysed from the neck, straight down, and she had internal bleeding. After three days, she died.
Kojanna said that up to this day, she still bears injuries from the accident.
"Now, I have problems with my chest. When the accident just happened, my mother had to put me on my side to sleep, and my heart was racing in my sleep… I had to be taking pills every morning. I'm on and off at hospital and I have to be going to private doctor. I should do a scan right now and I can't do it because we don't have the money. My chest still give mi problem. Sometimes I would be on the road and my heart just start race. In January I came off the pills that the doctor prescribed," she said.
"Every time I remember, mi bawl. A me and her used to sleep together, and a night-time she would get up and wake me up and ask me if I want juice. She is the older one, so she always treat me like a baby. To know that she is gone, half of me is gone. Sometimes I look at her pictures and videos and just bawl. To write 'RIP, my sister' on my birthday is kinda hot, so I don't really do those things. Every birthday it was the two of us," Kojanna related.
There have always been calls for road users to excercise caution and care when traversing the nation's roads, due to the alarming frequency of road fatalities yearly.
As at September 30, 2022 a total of 342 people have died in road crashes.
Statistics from the Road Safety Unit for 2021 reveal that of the 487 road fatalities recorded for that year, speeding, drivers failing to keep left, and pedestrian error were the main causes of fatal crashes.