At about 9am, Haydee Paul, 28, and her daughters Akasha and Shakira Paul, eight and seven years old respectively, had just left the Central Market in Sea Lots, where they had spent the majority of the morning shopping.
They had safely crossed the Beetham Highway and were walking along the pavement of the westbound lane, in a group with three other persons towards their Sea Lots home, when the group was suddenly hit by a metallic beige-coloured Toyota Corolla motor vehicle.
The driver of the car, a police constable reportedly attached to the Transport and Telecom Branch of the TTPS, was heading west along the highway, when he lost control of his vehicle shortly after crossing the traffic lights at Abattoir Road, Sea Lots. His vehicle mounted the sidewalk, and then spun several times, hitting the members of the group in the process. What followed next was something that could only be described as a scene straight out of a horror movie. Six bodies lay on the roadway, with blood splattered against the sides of the vehicle where the car impacted with the victims.
Paul and her two children were killed instantly, while the three other victims who have been identified as Abigail Assing, 30, Amanda Lalla, 50, and husband and father of two 21-year-old Ryan Rampersad, were eventually taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
Assing was said to have received severe injuries about her body. Her hands, a leg, and her hip were said to be broken, and she was also suffering from internal bleeding.
Lalla reportedly suffered severe injuries to her head, and up to press time she was in surgery as doctors attempted to relieve the pressure which had built up in her brain. She had also received severe injuries to her hands and feet.
Rampersad was also said to be in surgery up to late yesterday afternoon, and his relatives were reportedly told that he was suffering from severe internal bleeding, and one of his kidneys would have to be removed. He, too, suffered severe swelling in his brain, and doctors reportedly drilled a hole in his head in an attempt to relieve the pressure.
Immediately following the accident, residents of Sea Lots flooded the scene, horrified to find the carnage of human bodies on the roadway.
Many residents reported seeing the driver of the Toyota vehicle moving around in the front seat of his car, seemingly disoriented from the impact. Some persons who went to ensure the driver was okay, alleged that they noticed a strong smell of alcohol in the vehicle.
Within minutes the haunting cries of loved ones and friends of the accident victims who came out to the scene pervaded the air.
A party of officers from the Besson Street Police Station and the Inter-Agency Task Force first arrived on the scene.
They surrounded the vehicle, and ordered all traffic onto the eastbound lane, to ensure that the accident was not disturbed. Within minutes appliances from the Wrightson Road Fire Station and the Woodbrook Fire Station arrived on the scene.
However, neither the officers nor the officials from the fire service opted to move the three injured victims, telling residents that it would be safer for all if the paramedics tended to the wounded.
Yet despite this explanation, residents claimed that the police on the scene placed the driver of the motor vehicle into a police car, and carried him away — supposedly to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital for treatment, even while two women and a man lay on the ground seriously wounded.
It was alleged that the ambulances arrived about 20 minutes after the accident, and this was what triggered the residents of the area to instigate an impromptu protest.
Elijah Mitchell said he was at the market when he heard the loud screeching of tyres followed by a loud noise. He said he ran outside and saw the six persons, all covered in blood, lying on the roadway.
“As I hear boom! I run outside and see people on the ground covered with blood and the car smashed up. It was nauseating. I run across to see if anybody needed help, and as I reach the car, I see the bodies of these people. Meanwhile the driver was fine in his car. He was disoriented, but fine. Meanwhile I’m seeing a woman and a man on the ground moving about in pain. Another woman was just still. She was just lying there. But you could see she was breathing.
“A few minutes after that the police arrived, and they went straight to the driver. They checked the other people too. I’m not going to lie. But they seemed to focus on the driver. Some people say they see them removing certain controversial items from the car. I don’t know. I didn’t see that. What I know is that within minutes they put the driver in a police car, and they left. Meanwhile the victims who were the ones who got hit by the car, still on the ground beating up and shaking. We beg the police to take them to the hospital. They watch us in our face and say no they not going with anybody. And they didn’t say why. The fire service reach and when we ask them they, too, say they not going with anybody and we will have to wait on an ambulance. That in itself was aggravating for us, but when the ambulance take about 20 minutes to reach, and we seeing people suffering on the road, that was too much,” Mitchell said.
He said it was because of this, and the fact that the residents of the area had decided that they would not let the deaths of the children be in vain, that they began to throw debris in the roadway. However, their actions were swiftly curtailed by the arrival of Guard and Emergency Branch(GEB) Officers as well as members of the Inter-Agency Task Force, who put an end to all protest actions.
At a point in time, members of the GEB reportedly even shot into the crowd with rubber bullets and used tear gas on the crowds. As a precautionary measure, traffic was also rerouted on the highway to avoid the scene altogether. Speaking to members of the media yesterday, Angilo St Bernard, the father of the two deceased children, broke down several times as he spoke about his family.
“This real sad. I don’t even have the words for this right now. It just sad. It not right at all. You know how hard it is to get a call saying your family dead and to come and see them on the ground like that? And then to know a policeman do it, and people saying he was drunk, yet when I asking questions nobody have answers. That is unfair. I am the father and you can’t tell me the circumstances of my family’s death? My family? You can’t give me the name of the man who kill my family? That is not right at all,” St Bernard said.
He recalled that he was in Port-of-Spain when he heard the news of his children’s death.
“I was in town looking for meat, when I hear that six people get lick down. I remember thinking that I hope it’s not my children. But when I came down and see them on the ground I just died. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what is next. All I know is that I wish what I feeling right now, on nobody. Nobody. Because this is heartbreaking,” St Bernard said.