Police reported that Dopson of Chandernagore Village, Chaguanas was directing traffic on the southbound lane of the highway, in the area where repair work to a culvert was being carried out, when a white Lexus motorcar driven by a woman collided with him killing him instantly. His body was pinned under a truck. His colleague WPC Wendy Timothy sustained serious injuries, police said, and remains warded in critical condition at the San Fernando General Hospital.
Police said the young woman of El Socorro, San Juan, was unhurt but was taken to the Couva Health Facility where she was treated for shock. She was later taken into custody at the Freeport Police Station where she was questioned and released late Sunday night.
In light of the tragic weekend accident on the highway, concerned police officers are calling for the reduction in the long hours they are made to work while on the traffic beat.
Speaking to Newsday yesterday, a senior officer of the Highway Patrol Division said no police officer should work more than six hours directing traffic on the busy highways.
“If they don’t break up those hours, we will have more police dying in that way. Standing for those long hours directing traffic especially on the highway, is not easy at all. It is very, very dangerous,” he said.
The senior officer said his colleagues sometimes have to work as long as 12 hours when major repair works are being carried out on the nations highways and byways.
“After those long hours, an officer can lose focus. On the highway you can’t afford to have tired eyes or brains, you always have to be focussed as drivers do the craziest things.”
He said traffic officers can’t afford to take their eyes off the road for one second. “It’s really hard out there.”
Following the tragedy on Sunday, “big men broke down crying and had to be sent for counselling,” the officer told Newsday. “It was not easy for them. The rescue team had to cut out Dopson from under the truck. Body parts, and bones were left hooked onto the truck.”
The officer also expressed concern that sometimes untrained police officers are sent on the nation’s roads to control traffic.
“On Sunday the officers were all doing extra duties,” he explained. “I can’t say whether or not they are trained traffic officers but we believe only trained traffic officers should be out there.”
He said many officers were not comfortable having to work long hours without a break.
“Officers come out from as early as 6 am to take up duty and could work for as long as 12 hours. Policemen and women are humans too,” he said. “The elements, sun or rain take a toll on us too.”
Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner yesterday told reporters that work on Solomon Hochoy Highway is expected to be completed in two months. Warner said the highway has 12 culverts at 12 intersections that are supposed to be changed.
“I have to make sure that those things are done and done quickly. I am trying to do it on weekends with minimum in convenience to the people,” Warner said.