In as much as we have so many vehicles on our roads today, using the public transportation system even in the early 1990′ s was very challenging. This was compounded by having to travel very long distances with only a few vehicles on the road and many people wanting to go to the same destination.
Many of our parish capitals have a fair number of business places, but experience will teach you that there are quite a number of business transactions that can only be done in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city. It therefore meant that in order to get certain things done, one had to get there by whatever means necessary. Kingston happens to be sixty-three miles away from our small community in Portland; a ride that could last from two and a half to four hours depending on the vehicle that you were traveling in and the route that was taken.
To get to our destination on time we had to wake up as early as four o’clock in the mornings in order to get ready and be on one of the few early morning buses that would leave at four thirty. Where we lived there were two different routes thus two options by which to get to Kingston: – the first would be to catch the four thirty K Sons bus (Jingle Bells), the only one that travels from Port Antonio through Morant Bay at that time in the morning. The second was to sleep at a relative or friend’s house in Port Antonio, and then take one of the six or eight early buses that travel to Kingston via Annatto Bay.
Over the weekend, Nelke my eldest sister who was living in Port Antonio at the time realized that she had some business to do in Kingston and asked me to accompany her. The following morning we got up early, and dressed in anticipation of the winding roads that made up part of the long journey ahead.
About three busses were parked when we got to the bus stop. One was partially full and we were shepherded by the conductor to sit in the second-to-last row of seats. As we made ourselves comfortable, other early travelers began to arrive taking the additional seats in the bus. Determined not to leave the bus stop without a “full load”, the conductor had us adjusting ourselves on the seats (“making our selves smaller”) so as to squeeze a fifth person in each row of seats initially intended for four.
That early in the morning the air is very cool and its chilliness began to intensify as the bus increased its speed. So as we started off, persons who had their windows open began to close them in an effort to keep themselves warm.
The first half an hour or so of driving was done in partial darkness. The only light that was on were the headlights and the darkness in the bus’s interior was sometimes punctuated by the blinding glare of headlight from oncoming vehicles or from that of the overhead street lights that we pass under.
The passengers were quiet and many of them had started to doze off, as the effects of waking up that early began to take its toll. Some persons would awaken when the steady pace of driving was oftentimes interrupted by the driver’s gearing down in order to slowly negotiate some of the many potholes or tight corners that could be found along the road.
Eventually the sky began to lighten. The outline of the trees became faintly obvious as the sun rose closer and closer to the horizon. Soon the darkness faded and the trees could clearly be seen. The streetlights went off one by one and soon the oncoming motorists were passing us with their headlights off. As the sun shone brighter its rays began to steal their way through the leaves of the trees that were wet with dew. With the rising of the sun, the passengers began to wake from their slumber.
We had been driving for about two hours and had reached within the vicinity of Temple Hall when the heavy engine sound of a truck could be heard approaching from behind. The driver was impatiently honking the horn of the truck as he attempted to over take the bus. Our driver pulled along the side of the road and allowed him to pass. He did so at a very high speed.
The truck must have stopped along the road and we passed him again because soon after we fell in a line of traffic we became aware again the same noise from behind and sounds of a quick successions of gear changes. Looking behind the bus I saw that and a motorbike had fallen in line behind our vehicle, and the truck was behaving like a raging bull behind it.
Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound and our vehicle swerving slightly out of control because of the momentum of the impact. Our driver quickly got the vehicle under control and pulled over on the side of the road where we hastily alighted.
Looking down the road, we saw that the truck had also stopped. Beyond the truck the motorbike could be seen on its side in the road. Close to it two figures could be seen huddled together in the road.
Rushing towards the figures we discovered a woman, the pillion rider on the bike laying unconscious on her back in the road and a man, the rider bending over her. A closer look revealed that the brown layers of skin from sections of her arms, thigh and legs were grated off to reveal the white underlay of her skin. These were areas where her body had impacted the asphalt road. Within the regions of her abdomen were marks of tire treads to suggest that the truck had probably run over her body.
Her companion, oblivious to his own scrapes that were few but similar in nature desperately tried to get assistance for her. He frantically waved at motorists pleading with them to stop and help as they came in line with the accident site. Most of the passing vehicles were packed like the bus that we were in and the persons in them didn’t find it convenient to help. Some of the motorist stopped mainly out of curiosity, just to have a look at what had happened.
Eventually, a Good Samaritan came by and the couple were carefully loaded into the vehicle and driven off to one of the hospitals in Kingston.
When the police eventually arrived on the scene, and began to collect information it became clearer as to how the accident had happened.
The truck driver was speeding along the road and whether it was due to poor judgment or because he lost control of the vehicle, he hit the motorcyclist from behind, sending it straight into the back of the van in which we were traveling. The impact spilled both riders onto the roadway and the lady was run over by one of the wheels of the truck.
Unfortunately, the truck driver, realizing the trouble he was in instead of staying to face the music quickly fled the scene of the accident. Eyewitnesses alleged that he was seen running towards some high grass that grew along the right hand side of the road.
I assume that he eventually turned himself in to the authorities or was eventually caught and charged but I oftentimes wonder if this lady had actually survived this incident. If she did then "God was on her side that morning”. If she did not then “May her soul rest in peace,"