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Thursday, November 8, 2012

FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF 11/11: THE MORNE SION TRAGEDY REVISITED



THE ACCIDENT HAPPENED HERE

As we approach the first Anniversary of the historic Morne Sion Disaster (popularly referred to 11/11), let us reflect on some aspects of St. Lucia’s and arguably the Caribbean’s most horrific motor vehicle accident.

The CHOISEUL POWERHOUSE, which arrived on the scene mere minutes after the disaster had the distinction of breaking the story to the world in almost real time.

OLD "TREED" WINDMILL ABOUT 100 METRES AWAY
It was by fortuitous coincidence that a group of Morne Sion folks who were traversing Morne Portalese said they heard desperate screams coming from “an object” careening down the Morne Sion cliff into the Caribbean Sea below. They said they also heard the sound of the impact when it landed. Another group reported that they were in the vicinity of the nearby Old “treed” Windmill about 100 metres away from the top of the cliff where the tragedy happened. They reported that they were on their way to a political meeting in D├ętou Kannawi in Morne Sion when a mini-bus whisked by them at unbelievable speed and saw the vehicle hit the curb and plunged headlong over the 120 foot cliff.


WINDMILL NEAR TOP OF MORNE SION HILL
We received a call almost immediately after the accident. In fact, when we got there about 20 minutes after it happened, there was a mere sprinkling of persons on the scene.

At first sight, the accident seemed to be a horrific one, with the bodies of three victims – one of them a child with signs of life - sprawled on the beach and being washed by the wave action. The jury is still out on how those “souls” got there: Did they jump out of the minibus when it was on its downward flight from the top of the cliff to the sea below? Were they ejected from the vehicle on impact? Were they washed from vehicle by the wave action? Did they get out of the wreck after the impact?

Meanwhile the partially submerged wrecked minibus on which they were traveling was further into the sea in a capsized position about 40 feet away; and it wasn’t until after the emergency services gave the local heroes the green light to turn over the capsized wreck about ½ an hour later that the full horror story unfolded.  At the end of it all, 15 bodies removed from the vehicle were confirmed dead. The next day, the final count reached 17.

As the lifeless bodies of the victims were being removed, the screams of the unprecedented horror reached a chilling crescendo, especially after the bodies of three kids dressed in their long sleeve white shirts and black pants were “expunged” from the wreck.

The crowd swelled exponentially and soon the beach was filled to capacity by onlookers; but nobody seemed to know who the victims were. A proliferation of theories of what could have possibly happened were being bandied about until Grantley Modeste (aka Sue Boy) from Gertrine who fortuitously happened to be on the scene told us that the minibus was from Dugard (Micoud) and his ex-girlfriend and his three children were part of the tragedy; and then he momentarily “blanked out”.

One year later, nobody seemed to have quite recovered from the emotional impact of that disaster. One year later, people still cringe when they drive near the scene. Ethnill Agdomar - the hero from Newfield who was recognized for his post-rescue brave and Herculean efforts - told the Powerhouse that he continues to suffer some of the worst anxiety attacks to the point where he avoids going near or even looking in the direction of the scene.

Another gentlemen in the neighbourhood told us that he no longer enjoys the once-upon-a-time therapeutic view in that direction; he confesses that he sees horror whenever he looks there.

But perhaps the most severely impacted are the immediate families and friends of those who perished. I visited Sue Boy earlier in the week and he told me one year later he was still in a deep state of grief with little sign of improvement. I’m sure the same could be said of the other family members.

One year later, we have been informed that the insurance company has not settled with any of the victims’ families. At least one of the victims’ families told me that he approached the president of Council (who is also the president of the senate) for advice; but that has obviously not helped.

One year later, the scene of the Morne Sion tragedy remains a virtual horror chamber for many and thoughts thereof will forever remain etched deeply into our minds.

A NEW LOOK AT THE MORNE SION TRAGEDY MEMORIAL SITE
On the first anniversary of the disaster, I want to take this opportunity to urge the grieving and traumatised families to be strong and to advise them if they continue to feel overly-traumatised that it’s not too late to visit an expert to be pschoanalysed and treated - otherwise, the anxiety attacks will persist and may crystallise into forms that may well be extremely damaging psychologically.


A memorial service in memory those who perished and "to comfort those who are still hurt and traumatized" will be held at the Lady of Lourdes Choiseul Catholic Church on November 10, 2012 from 2:00pm.

We invite you to join us!

 May God bless the families of the victims of the Morne Sion tragedy

2 comments:

  1. Dear Editor

    I am gratified to see the erection of the warning signs that have appeared on the approach to the bend in the last couple of days and the new concrete barriers. But after thinking of the saying about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted to use another old saw better late than never. But why stop at this bend ? between the Trou Marc river and the village there at least two other equally dangerous bends and a lot more traffic than there was even a few years ago.

    Mr Editor . I know you are an engineer and would like to hear your comments on the concrete barriers. As a layman I would have thought that hitting solid concrete at even a relatively slow speed would have the same effect on life and limb as the alternative at that spot. I always understood that the corrugated barriers seen on the main road were designed to crumple on impact when hit by a car and therefore absorb the forward momentum ( but may not stop a laden large truck ) and were thought to be safer than solid barriers. Looking forward to your comments.

    Diana

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  2. Very True Diana!

    They are called "guard rails" or "guide rails". In engineering, the major objective of guardrails is to prevent vehicles from veering off the roadway.

    A secondary objective is to keep the vehicle upright while deflected along the guardrail.Because it is a strong band, it "transfers the force of the vehicle to multiple posts beyond the impact area or into a ground anchor at the end of the guardrail"

    I am thinking of writing a feature on the suitability those barriers erected!

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