At least seven people, mainly students, died after a minibus plunged into the sea in Rockguter, an area between Owia and Fancy on the northeastern tip of St Vincent early today.
Police and government officials said that five bodies had, so far, been recovered from the sea, and one person died in hospital. Another person died on the way to the medical institution.
Police were still trying to verify how many persons were in the minibus when it plunged into the sea sometime between 7:00 am and 8:00 am.
Initial reports said there were as many as 20 people, including 14 students from the North Union and Georgetown Secondary Schools respectively.
One police source said that officials were told that the minibus, which was licensed to carry 18 passengers, was “full” when it left Fancy, the northernmost community.
Residents said it was packed with students from the two communities further south in this North Windward constituency.
They said that the conductor was standing, suggesting that the minibus was carrying more people than it was licensed to carry, a common practice in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A large crowd gathered at the scene where two Coast Guard patrol boats were been searching for bodies or survivors.
The efforts were affected by especially large waves characteristic of the Atlantic side of St Vincent, where the terrain is an alternation of steep inclines and deep gorges and winding roads.
Among the bodies recovered from the water is that of a female student. Health authorities said the body showed signed of trauma, presumable inflicted as it knocked against the large rocks that line the shore.
It was not yet clear what caused the incident, but police said that villagers were notified by persons who jumped out of the vehicle before impact. (CMC)