The man who was behind the wheel of ZR125 when it overturned on Nursery Drive two years ago, resulting in a schoolgirl losing her forearm, has been found guilty of dangerous driving.
However, Matthew Ricardo Daniel, of Licorish Village, My Lord’s Hill, St Michael is yet to know his fate, as Magistrate Graveney Bannister has ordered a pre-sentencing report on him. That is expected to take six to eight weeks to compile.
Daniel was found guilty of willful misconduct, causing bodily harm to Zakiyah Defreitas, driving in a manner dangerous to the public, driving without due care and attention, and driving the vehicle without reasonable consideration for other road users on June 9, 2015.
The accident, which made national headlines, resulted in the hand of the then 14-year-old Springer Memorial School student being severed.
In a written ruling issued Friday, Magistrate Bannister said that Daniel’s “way of driving [on that day] was indeed dangerous”.
The magistrate pointed to evidence given by the driver himself to support his ruling. He said Daniel testified that there was an obstruction ahead of him on that day that he was going to “overtake…[but] two Pine vans came around the same time”.
“They were racing next to me and when I was going to pull back in, the girl next to me reacted when she see the vans coming.”
Bannister stressed that a “reasonable and competent driver” would only overtake when it was safe to do so.
“A reasonable and competent driver would be looking ahead, and seeing an obstruction on his side, would have slowed enough to pull up his vehicle safely without attempting to overtake and then having to take evasive action from oncoming vehicles. The accused’s way of driving was indeed dangerous,” Bannister said.
Evidence presented to the court had also showed that Daniel Olliviere, who was travelling in the front passenger seat beside Defrietas, had told Daniel to stop.
Instead of complying, Olliviere said, the driver increased his speed when a student in the crowded van said, “I want shakes” as they were at the Mencea Cox Roundabout.
According to the evidence given by the passenger, the driver “circled” the roundabout twice and on reaching Nursery Drive Road continued shaking the van from side to side. Some of the passengers requested that he stop the van but he refused, saying “we will get there just now”.
At the scene of the accident, Daniel had reportedly told the police: “I was [driving] the van to mek the turn and being gravel was on the road it buckled on me and picked up a slide and overturned.”
The magistrate said that at no time did Daniel admit to gravel on the left side of the road on which he was travelling, although he admitted to going over to the other side.
“I do not accept the accused’s story that the steering was pulled from his hand which caused the vehicle to overturn. The accused, in my view, was travelling at a fast rate of speed and doing shakes,” Bannister’s written ruling stated.
“The driver of a Public Service Vehicle has a high duty of care as they carry precious cargo (people) whose lives they transport. The road is not a playground and a driver of a PSV should not accede to any request to do foolishness on the roads and endanger people’s lives by causing grave injuries,” it added.
Bannister pointed to the aggravating factors in Daniel’s case – disregarding the warnings of passengers, and evidence of excessive speed for a prolonged period from the Mencea Cox Roundabout to Nursery Drive Road.
On those grounds, the magistrate found Daniel guilty on each count.
Daniel who is represented by attorney Angella Mitchell-Gittens returns to court on August 2 when the pre-sentencing report is expected to be ready.
He remains on $15,000 bail in the meantime.