SEA LOTS residents exploded in sporadic fits of rage yesterday and some even cried as they expressed their emotions after a car driven by an off-duty police officer ploughed into six residents on the pavement just after 9 a.m., killing a mother and her two daughters on the spot.
The emotions, anger and violence erupted when residents claimed police removed a half-empty bottle of whisky from the officer's vehicle, a claim police on the scene immediately denied.
Police had to use tear gas and rubber bullets to restore order, as residents blocked the Beetham Highway, throwing pieces of concrete and other debris on the roadway shortly after the incident, and again around 3 p.m.
The highway was closed off to traffic for most of yesterday, and motorists were advised by police to use alternative routes to head into Port of Spain.
In response to fears by residents that the police were protecting one of their own, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams told TV6 yesterday, "I want to assure you that there will be due care involved in this investigation and everything will be done in a timely and proper manner, and even if it also means that the police officer will be given a breath test. There is no intention by the Police Service to cover up any incident involving police officers."
According to police, the off-duty officer, who is assigned to the Transport and Telecom Branch, was heading west in his metallic beige-coloured Toyota Corolla, when his car swerved to the left just after the traffic lights after the Central Market, mounted the sidewalk and ploughed into the six people standing there.
Among those killed were Hady Paul, 28, and her daughters, Akasha Paul, eight, and Shakira Paul, seven. They were returning to their home at Production Drive, Sea Lots, from the market.
Akasha attended the Nelson Street Girls' Government Primary School, while Shakira was enrolled at the Eastern Girls' Government Primary School.
Residents also pleaded for a walk-over to be built to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Among the injured are Amanda Lalla, alias "Roti-woman"; Abbigail Assing; and a man identified only as Ryan, alias "Dhal", who remained in critical condition at the Port of Spain General Hospital last night.
Assing's brother, Omri Assing, said his sister needs three to six pints of blood, and is pleading with anyone to donate.
The father of the two girls, Angelo St Bernard, who arrived on the scene, cried as looked at the bodies of his wife and two daughters.
"This eh sweeping beneath no rug at all. Ah telling yuh. I hear about this in town when I was buying meat and I'm hearing people talking about six people get hit, and the first thing that run across my mind was that I hope is not my children and them who get bounce on the highway.
"But by the time I reach up the road, I get a call that my two children get bounce on the highway. I tell them that if all yuh know is so-and-so joke all yuh making, doh make them kinda joke. Then ah come down and see meh children and they mother on the ground.
"Oh God, that real unfair. Right now I want the name of the policeman that bounce my child, breds. I not into no violence, you know. But that real unfair," he said.
Resident Elijah Mitchell told the Express, "When officers first arrived on the scene, they extracted their bredrin (colleague) out of the mash-up car."
The officer was taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital, where he was being treated up to last night.
"When they gone with he now, it still had two people beating up on the ground and shaking, and people start to stand up around them to give them shade but the officers and them, nobody deal with them."
Mitchell continued, "When the fire officers and them come. Well I thinking that the fire officers and them will go with the (injured) people, but a fire officer told me that they not going with anybody, they have to wait for the ambulance. The ambulance station is right behind the market right dey, less than two minutes' drive, and emergency services come from all over and the ambulance took half an hour to reach here and the ambulance services right there."
He added, "It was market morning so everyone saw what happened, and when we heard 'budups', everybody done know that they (the six) was on the side of the pavement. Nobody in the accident was in the middle of the road, so you cannot really blame the people and them and say they was crossing the road bad or whatever, 'cause the people and them was on the pavement."