The death today of a former Ellerslie Secondary School janitor at a junction in Westmoreland, St James has prompted calls for a roundabout in the area in an attempt to put a stop to the frequent vehicular accidents there.
Sixty-one-year-old Mary Downes was struck and killed at the junction moments after disembarking a bus, having earlier visited her doctor for therapy.
Residents told Barbados TODAY the junction has been the scene of many accidents in recent times, at least three of them fatal.
In early March 48-year-old Anderson Dacosta Joseph of Westmoreland was struck and killed in the area by a vehicle driven by 19-year-old Nicholii Greene of Carlton, St James as he was crossing the road with his five-year-old son, who was also injured in the accident and had to be hospitalized.
Like Downes, Joseph was a stone’s throw away from home when he died.
“I don’t like these accidents here so all the time. They’re happening way too often. This is the third in a short space of time,” said Jeffrey Smith.
“The only thing that could be done is a roundabout being put there,” advised another resident, Marston Broomes, in echoing Smith’s sentiments.
Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde joined the chorus of calls for action to “mitigate the loss of life and the tremendous injury”.
Forde had been Downes’ parliamentary representative and knew her well.
Today, she expressed shock at her former constituent’s passing.
“It saddens me to know that a great friend, a very hardworking mother, grandmother and I believe now great grandmother would have lost her life so tragically. She has been a tower of strength in Fire Hill, St Thomas. She knew everyone, and she was an ambitious woman. She reared her own animals; she was a dynamic woman,” Forde said.
“I have always had concerns about this junction and I believe now rather than wait until someone else loses their life, they should make a huge effort to put a roundabout or traffic lights to ensure that motorists and commuters are safe.
“To lose one life is too many, but over the last few years three lives have been lost. It’s time that the Government pays attention to it, work with speed to put some measures in place to mitigate the loss of life and the tremendous injury that we know is associated with it,” she stressed.
Downes had left home this morning for therapy, as she sought relief from an old injury suffered when she fell.
“She worked at Ellerslie, then she was home medically unfit. She had fallen and hurt herself. She just went by the hospital this morning for therapy,” her distraught sister who wanted to be identified only as Judi told Barbados TODAY.
Before working at Ellerslie Secondary, Downes had worked for many years at Portvale Sugar Factory.
The lorry that struck her was being overtaken by another vehicle, and the former janitor died on the spot, eyewitnesses said.
Judi said her son witnessed the tragedy that ended his aunt’s life.
“It happened in front my son. He saw her and he stop and this truck just come along and tek she up,” Judi added, pausing at times to dry her tears.
She described Downes as a woman who was well known and liked, but also a no nonsense person.
“She would always sit here and don’t care how much traffic pass here, everyone would be blowing and shouting for Mary. If she is going anywhere someone would always stop and ask her where she is going and offer to drop her somewhere. That’s the kind of person she was. She was a very jovial person but when she was serious she was serious. She was strict. If she told you you were going to get a cut tail you would get it,” she said while shaking her head in disbelief.
Resident Jeffrey Smith was nearby when the accident occurred. And although he did not witness the impact, he said he was still shaken by the accident.
“I was here sitting at Love Rock and having a beverage, not looking for nothing so, then we hear this big commotion. I get up and I see these two trucks involved in an accident. I wasn’t looking for anyone to be dead.
“I saw the truck up there in the air and I didn’t know a woman was involved. I thought it was going to go over the wall by the children at the church at one point.
“I sat down here cause I didn’t think it was nothing serious and accidents happen here all the time. I see a woman running on the sidewalk, going up there, so one the guys got up and went over there and came back and told us a woman up there dead,” Smith recalled.
Counsellors at the Vacation Bible School at Westmoreland Nazarene Church said some of the children were also shaken, prompting an early end to the session.
“We were having our break time snack when the accident occurred, so some of them would have heard all the screeching and saw the commotion and so on. They were really scared after learning what happened,” one of the counsellors said.
Today’s fatal accident was the 16th for 2017, compared to ten for all of last year.