The driver of the car was reported to be over the limit of alcohol intake and failed a breathalyser test prompting police officers to detain him.
However, he complained of chest pains and was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex where he was treated for shock and minor injuries.
The five dead persons were identified yesterday as Harrylal Mongroo, 31, of 54 Maraj Street, Arouca; Shayaz Khan, 24, his mother Christine Khan, 51, of 8 McKenzie Street, Frederick Settlement Caroni, Shiva Bharath, 27, of St Joseph, Arun Narma 22, of Caura Royal Road.
Police reports reveal at about 5.30 am yesterday the 25-year-old driver of a gold-coloured Almera car was proceeding east along the Eastern Main Road, Arouca, when on reaching the Caura Royal Road he allegedly received a “bad drive” by a pick-up van. The driver told police that he tried to pull away to avoid a collision and struck the traffic light on the southern side of the roadway and then careened into Palance Bar where several persons were liming.
He then crashed into vehicle PBE 8005, and another vehicle TBU 1923.
Three persons, including two women Akela Alleyne, 19, Anika Small and a third person identified only as Ian were struck by the runaway car.
An unidentified man and woman were found lying motionless on the roadway and their bodies were viewed by District Medical Officer Dr Uppalapati who ordered the removal to a nearby funeral home.
However, it was only while police officers were trying to remove the runaway car from inside the bar that they discovered three crushed bodies under the vehicle. Those bodies were later identified.
The driver of the runaway car who suffered minor injuries reportedly got out of the vehicle and declared to bar owner Ramesh Sookraj, that was a mason and could repair the damage he had done. However, Sookraj asked the driver how was he going to explain to the relatives of the dead persons how and why they were killed.
Yesterday a clearly distressed Sookraj said the bar which is 35 years old and was previously owned by his father is very popular and is open to the public anyday and anytime.
He said it is customary for persons to be at the bar liming and having a good time even on mornings but what he witnessed yesterday was something worse than a bad nightmare.
He told Newsday some of his customers were inside the bar drinking while others were outside standing next to their vehicles chatting and having a good time when he heard a loud screeching noise.
He said he looked on in bewilderment as the gold-coloured Almera car crashed into the traffic lights then struck two vehicles before partially demolishing the bar where he was standing. Sookraj said “if the car was travelling a little faster, I am sure I would not be speaking to you today because I stared death in the face, and it was probably Divine intervention which caused the car to come to a stop which allowed me to be alive today.”
He expressed sympathy for the victims of yesterday’s tragedy but described the actions of some drivers as reckless, inhumane and selfish without any regard for the lives of innocent persons.
According to Sookraj “when people drink and drive they demonstrate clearly they have no regard for their lives and the lives of others because when someone is over the alcohol intake, the possibility exists they could lose control of that vehicle and kill innocent persons.” He said he is yet to come to terms with what he witnessed and hopes justice will be served.
He added he is yet to assess the damage to his bar but business was back to normal yesterday even while the bar was being repaired by workmen. When Newsday visited the scene of the tragic accident several persons gathered to look on at the police activities. Even relatives of the dead persons were there trying to find out about what exactly transpired which led to their loved ones being killed.
At Maraj Street, Arouca, at the home of one of the victims Harrylal Mongroo, his sister Geeta told Newsday that her brother was an electrician at Home Construction Ltd (HCL). She said that he was engaged to be married and on Monday he left work at about 10 pm to go to Caura Royal Road to drop off a friend who she only knew as Ian.
She said she only received news of the accident at about 8 am yesterday and when she went to the bar her brother’s body was already removed, but his death was confirmed.
“My brother was a quiet hard-working person, he was well loved and respected by his family and he will be sadly missed.” She said that her parents and other members of her family were not dealing well with the death of Harrylal. She pointed out that the last time she spoke with her brother, on Monday, he was happy and full of life and she never knew it was the last time she was going to be talking to him.
“I want the law to take its course and deal with those reckless drivers who have no regard for human lives especially those drivers who drink and drive and who flout traffic laws to get to their destinations, and I am calling on the police to ensure that this enquiry is not swept under the carpet and justice is served.”
When Newsday went to the Caroni home of another victim Shayaz Khan his mother was not at home but neighbours said that he was an IT technician who was well-liked and respected. They expressed surprise over his death and added that his mother appeared to be in a state of shock after police broke the news to her yesterday.
Yesterday, senior police officers who visited the scene of the accident told Newsday they are in the process of recording statements and the investigation is continuing apace. A party of officers led by Senior Superintendent David Abraham, Superintendent Othaniel Williams, Inspector Jugmohan, Sgt Mark Maharaj, Cpl Julien and Divisional Fire Officer Neverson are continuing enquiries into the five deaths.
Yesterday Brent Batson of Arrive Alive expressed sympathy for the relatives of those who died in the incident and said Arrive Alive will be embarking on a campaign to target young drivers in this country. He said the carnage on the nation’s roadways is cause for concern especially incidents where groups of persons are being killed and called on members of the motoring public to be more responsible when driving on the nation’s roadways.
“I thought by now drivers would have woken up about the harm and dangers which could occur when drivers fail to act responsibly. He said risk takers on the nation’s roadways need to be targeted in a bid to cut down on road traffic violations and to prevent the loss of lives.”
The deaths of the five brought the road fatality to 89 for the year.