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Native Canadian 'Bush Tea' leads protest against reckless driving in Bluefields

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, April 22, 2021

BLUEFIELDS, Westmoreland — Jeff “Bush Tea” McMurray, a Canadian, who has called Jamaica his home for the past year, and was hit from his motorcycle by a speeding car, took to the streets on Tuesday with a supportive group to protest against reckless driving on the Bluefields main road in Westmoreland.

During the protest, McMurray was pushed in his wheelchair for approximately a mile along the Bluefields main road in the vicinity of where the accident occurred in January. He was supported by placard-bearing protesters and motorists.

“We are trying to send a direct message that speed kills. So, look, all we are saying to people, it won't kill you to slow down but it will kill you to speed,” said the 58-year-old McMurray.

McMurray, who said he is an experienced driver, has been driving his licensed motorcycle across Jamaica for over a year. However, tragedy struck just over three months ago when he was hit from his motorcycle by a car that is said to be a licensed taxi.

“One fine day in mid-January, I was struck down by a car that was speeding through the centre of the town (Bluefields) with his wheels over the centre line and he came around the curve while I was trying to come out of my driveway and before I had a chance to cross the road, he hit me down and my injuries have been life-changing,” McMurray explained.

“I was ploughed down because a man wanted to earn one extra dollar. For one extra dollar, he almost killed me and my injuries are life-changing. So, let me ask you, is it worth it? I don't think so because it is not appropriate and a lot of people in this town have loved ones who have been run down,” stated McMurray, as he questioned the “lack of police enforcement on the roads.”

“Time after time, I have put the question to the local authorities, where is your radar? Do you not have one because maybe I could gather up a fund for you and get a radar, but I don't think that is the problem. I think that they just don't want to enforce anything in certain places, and I don't get it,” McMurray argued.

He claimed that while enforcement is done in other sections of the parish, nothing is being done in Bluefields.

He told the Jamaica Observer West that the injuries he sustained as a result of the accident in January include fractured bones in his left forearm and right lower leg.

“I looked at my leg and the bone was striking out. And, my foot turned around pointing that way and when I grabbed it and thought I would turn it this way to straighten it out, I realised that I had to go back around the other way,” he explained.

He said some of his friends came along, got some tree branches, placed them against the leg and used shoelaces to tie the feet in place.

“To make matters worse, the police came and they threw me in the truck and took me to the Savanna-la-Mar [Public General] Hospital and they (police) refused to take a statement from me. I was lying on my back in the hospital for over a month and I called the Bluefields Police Station several times. I was told that an officer is going to come and take a statement, [but] nobody ever came. On one occasion when they answered the phone, I had an officer tell me, 'I had no business with them, and that they don't have to give me any information and I was to guh home',” related McMurray, who noted that he is not going anywhere as Jamaica has become his home.

He claimed it was after making contact with the offices of the Canadian consulate that “the tourism police was sent to get the information from the Bluefields police.”

To complicate matters, McMurray said he had to endure immense pain and discomfort for over two and a half months after the accident before he was able to receive reconstructive surgery.

According to him, during the surgery proximal femoral nails with locking and stabilisation screws were placed in his leg to support his tibia or shinbone, while his fibula bone was set in place to heal on its own. He is scheduled to visit the orthopaedic surgeon in another three months. Besides, he has been told not to walk on the foot for months to come as the bones could come apart if not healed properly.

On Tuesday, a St James taxi operator, who gave his name only as Tony, took time off from his job to lend support to his friend McMurray. He noted that both taxi operators and other road users need to use the roadway in a responsible manner.

“Taxi drivers need to use the road safely and look out for others because it is not nice to have an accident, and it is worse when you hear that it is a taximan,” he argued.

Sister ILive, a Jamaican roots-reggae artiste who is a native of Belmont district in Westmoreland, also came out to support McMurray's cause. She said she appreciates the attention that McMurray has brought to the issue.

Tisi, a resident of Germany, who also participated in the protest, believes that the Bluefields roadway is also dangerous for pedestrians and bicycles.

“Whenever you use this road, you have to fear for your life. That is why I support this [initiative],” said Tisi.

When contacted, Superintendent of Police Robert Gordon, the commanding officer for Westmoreland, said he is aware of the accident and promised to address “claims of challenges McMurrary was faced with in getting the police to take a statement.”

In regards to claims of lack of enforcement of the Bluefields main road, Superintendent Gordon noted that while the police are doing their best and reaping success with little resources, transportation is an issue. He said the police are trying to get an additional vehicle to support the lone vehicle that services the Bluefields area, adding that “radars are not an issue.”

He noted that the Bluefields main road is not a hot spot for accidents.