For the umpteenth time in the last three decades, Maureen Garnes is pleading for assistance with the removal of a massive hazard which she says is threatening the lives of her family and neighbours at 1st Avenue, Deighton Road, St Michael.
The threat became much more apparent just before 9 a.m. on Tuesday when a massive portion of a gigantic mahogany tree collapsed, damaging a wooden house and crushing a silver 2016 Suzuki Swift. Most frightening for residents, was the fact that 33-year-old Lourianne Carter and her seven-month-old son narrowly escaped death as they had stepped out of the vehicle moments before the tree fell.
When Barbados TODAY visited the scene, Garnes, on whose land the sprawling mahogany rests, was sobbing uncontrollably as she reflected on the situation and expressed gratitude that it had not ended in tragedy.
“You can’t tell people what to believe in, but I believe in God Almighty, and I know that he is looking after me,” said Garnes, who described herself as a praying woman. In fact, the 71-year-old said that hours before the incident, she prayed for the children of the community who often play in the shadow of the tree.
“This young man’s wife was in this car, my grandchildren had just moved from out there and I heard this explosion and I said wow, we got an earthquake now. Then I heard them hollering that the tree came down.
“I am just thankful that no life or limb was lost . . . I don’t know how I would get through from today to another day if something had happened to Carter’s wife and their baby,” said the emotional elder.
Garnes disclosed that for 28 years, she has been tussling with Town and Country Planning, the Barbados National Trust, successive Members of Parliament and the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited (BL&P) for assistance moving the tree. However, she has continuously been denied permission because the over 100-year-old tree is situated in the area designated by UNESCO as Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison – a World Heritage Site.
In addition, the pensioner admitted that even if permission were granted, she does not possess the resources necessary to move the other half of the tree that continues to hover over the community. In fact, she recalled that on one occasion, she was quoted a cost of $4000 just to trim it.
“I don’t have any money besides a few cents in my bank account. I am a pensioner… My children aren’t working and my husband is just doing little jobs, so we don’t have anything put aside really to ask someone to go ahead and cut it,” she admitted.
But as a team from the Ministry of Transport and Workers prepared to clean up the debris, Garnes told Barbados TODAY that her family would be willing to struggle and repay the cost if someone would provide the money upfront to have the hazard removed immediately.
Lourianne Carter meanwhile recalled dropping her children off to school on Tuesday morning, before parking some metres away from the trunk of the tree and entering her house. Moments later, she heard the commotion outside and shouts from construction workers nearby informing her that her vehicle was “done”.
“I was in shock because the baby and I could have still been in the car… I’m just grateful to God that we came inside immediately or that I did not linger at the school longer and come home as this was happening,” said the relieved mother.
“I am just grateful that our lives were spared because when I look at the car, there is no way that I would have survived and if my son had survived, he would have been trapped in the car,” she added.
The mother of three echoed the sentiments of her neighbour and called on authorities to move swiftly to assist.
“If they had listened to our neighbour here, this would never have happened. Whoever is responsible for taking care of the trees in this area needs to come and have a look at these trees and see how strong these trees are, and ensure these communities are safe,” Carter added.
The owner of the house known to residents only as “Mr Michael” was not at home when it occurred, but Garnes issued a public apology to all affected by the fallen tree.