IT was a bloody Labour Day holiday yesterday as six people were killed on the nation's roads, with a drunk driver being responsible for five of the fatalities.
The five victims were innocent bystanders who lost their lives in the blink of an eye at around 5.30 a.m. when a vehicle ran into them outside a bar at Caura Junction, El Dorado.
The sixth road fatality was recorded at around 3.30 p.m. on the Priority Bus Route (PBR), near Carib Brewery, Champs Fleurs.
Dead are Shayaz Khan, 25, of #8 McKenzie Street, Frederick Settlement, Caroni; Arun Ajay Narma, 22, of #26 Peas Street, Caura Road, El Dorado; Harrilal Mongroo, 30, of #54 Maraj Street, Five Rivers, Arouca; Shiva Bharat (no age or address); Christine Khan (no age or address); and Patricia Bartholomew, 30, of Gasparillo, who was killed on the PBR.
Senior Superintendent and head of the Northern Division David Abraham and Senior Superintendent and second-in-command Otneil Williams were at the scene of the accident at Caura.
Abraham told the Express that the drunk driver—a 25-year-old man from Tacarigua, who failed the breathalyser test administered to him at Tunapuna Police Station—is expected to be charged on five counts of causing death due to reckless driving.
The driver complained to the police of serious pains and was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) for treatment.
Williams, speaking to the media at the scene of the accident, explained that the drunken driver, who was driving a gold Nissan Sunny, was proceeding east along the Eastern Main Road when he pulled to his right at Caura Junction to avoid colliding with another vehicle, a white Corolla, which was exiting Caura Royal Road.
According to Williams, the Sunny struck the traffic light pole and then ran into some people who were liming outside Palance Bar, which is located on the southern side of Caura Junction.
District Medical Officer (DMO) Satyanarayana Uppalapati first pronounced two people dead and then when one of the vehicles was pulled away by a wrecker, three more bodies were discovered crushed below it. All three were also pronounced dead by the DMO.
Williams said two other people received severe injuries and appeared to be in serious condition and were taken to the Arima Health Facility for treatment.
Owner of Palance Bar, Ramesh Sookraj, told the Express he was in his bar when the accident occurred.
"Careless and reckless driving cause innocent people to lose their lives. The man coming up the road, is either he sleep away or he couldn't control the speed of the car, he ran into the bar from the end of the culvert and lick down everybody," said Sookraj.
"In a wink of an eye that happen, I kept my calm cause I couldn't really do anything except watch and make sure nobody run into the bar," said Sookraj.
He said he was surprised that the driver of the vehicle came out "without a scratch" and proceeded to tell him (Sookraj) that he does not have to worry about the damage, that he would "fix everything".
Sookraj said the man was not even concerned or maybe unaware that he had just killed five people.
Part of the bar was destroyed as the vehicle ran into the structure and the bloody bodies of the three bar patrons lay among the debris. The lone woman, Khan, was dressed in a short blue denim skirt and dark coloured blouse.
One resident of the area, who lives on the corner of the junction, told the Express that he heard the vehicle speeding on the road and was certain that there would be a crash.
"I just hear the car speeding voosh, I heard a big bang and by the time I come outside, everybody dead. I saw two bodies on the road and one man looked like he break his foot," said the resident.
Scores of curious onlookers assembled on the compound of El Dorado Co-operative where they climbed the walls to get a glimpse of the carnage.
When the wrecker removed the vehicle and found the three bodies pinned below in the bar area, gasps were heard as some people cried out loudly at the sight of the bodies.
Williams said road deaths are on the increase because people continue to drink and drive. He urged citizens to designate a driver if they desire to consume alcohol.
Abraham said that policing has been heightened on the nation's roads in the Northern Division, but he noted that the police cannot be on "every street in the Northern Division".
He said a number of breathalyser exercises were conducted on Monday and he appealed that more breathalyser equipment should come into the system and the police be trained with respect to their use.
"We are warning drivers to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving on the roadway...the advice I have for motorists is if you know you're drinking alcohol stay at home, don't come out on the roadway and drive."
In the sixth fatality, according to a police report, Bartholomew had just exited a Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) bus and was attempting to cross the road when she was struck by a Suzuki.
The driver of the Suzuki, according to police, was not authorised to use the PBR.
Earlier this month, Transport Minister Devant Maharaj announced that Cabinet approved a $5 million awareness programme aimed at reducing road carnage.
Contacted yesterday, Maharaj said the National Road Safety Council met on two occasions and reviewed campaigns submitted by an advertising agency.
"It is unfortunate that people are not learning from the road fatalities. I think some bar owners who sell alcohol should exercise some kind of discretion and control who they sell alcohol to," the Minister added.