The village of Fancy has been reminded that there are still some legal steps to be taken regarding the Jan. 12 bus crash at Rock Gutter that claimed the lives of seven students.
But Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in giving the reminder on Thursday, also noted that these steps might not result in the prosecution of anyone.
Seven students died when a minivan careen down a sleep section of the road and crashed into the sea at Rock Gutter, an area between Fancy and Owia.
Two of the students have not been recovered, but they are presumed dead.
On Thursday, six months after the tragedy, Gonsalves told relatives of the dead and surviving students and other residents of Fancy that it will be a long time before there is closure.
“The healing will take time [in] each [of] our hearts, but the legal authorities have to bring to a conclusion certain matters for closure,” he said at an event where he was presented with a plaque in appreciation of his response to the tragedy.
“The police have to send a file, as is required in law, to the Director of Public prosecutions, to see what, if any action, is to be taken in respect of anyone being identified as being culpable.
“I noticed that in the news the Superintendent John, who is responsible for Traffic, says that their investigations are almost at an end. And I take it that a file will be sent to Director of Public Prosecutions shortly,” he said.
Superintendent Kenneth John told I-Witness News last week that the investigator needs about a month to compile his findings.
“It does not mean that that file will result in any prosecutions, that is the business of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Not my business; not anybody here business. The Constitution gives him that obligation, that responsibility,” Gonsalves said.
He was speaking during a week when residents of Fancy mounted placards calling for the prosecution of Ehud Myers, the owner of the minibus and conductor on the day of the incident, and Ravanan Nanton, the driver.
The picket came as tensions over the deaths came to the fore, and Myers told I-Witness News that some residents are calling his a murderer, claiming that the vehicle had problems before the accident, an accusation that he has denied.
Gonsalves, a lawyer and Minister of Legal Affairs, explained that if the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) does not think that the evidence point to anyone being criminally culpable for the incident, the DPP would then have to inform the Commissioner of Police and a magistrate and the Office of the Attorney General that a coroner’s inquest is to be held.
He explained that when someone dies in sudden and unnatural circumstances and no one is held by the prosecuting authorities to be criminally culpable, there must be a crooner’s inquest to determine the cause and circumstances of the death.
This takes place before a magistrate for the district and in the presence of a jury of five persons, in keeping with the law, Gonsalves explained.
The coroner’s jury will make a pronouncement, and when it the pronouncement is made, that is the finding of the coroner’s court in respect of the cause and circumstance of the death of these seven persons, Gonsalves said.
“I want to say this: when a person dies in sudden and unnatural circumstances, you can’t just sweep it under the carpet. They are human beings and there has to be an official closure. And everyone who is involved in this matter must show great sensitivity to the parents and family and the community who lost loved ones…
“Everyone who has a direct connection to this tragedy, there is a special obligation on them and indeed on their families to treat those who have lost their loved ones with great sensitivity care and love…” Gonsalves said.
“It’s not a question of you’re looking to get at anybody. Nobody wants to get at anybody. And we don’t want that quarrel and confusion in our community. But, like you, I am waiting on the police to complete their file and send it to the DPP and for the DPP to give the appropriate directions, either in relation to culpability — that is to saw blameworthiness — or for a coroner’s inquest to be held. That is the law of the land.”
He said that the emotional healing in hearts and minds will take a long time.
“And even while we heal, we will never, ever forget, and we should not forget, and we must not forget because our civilisation is one in which memory is important. It is not that we are living in the past, but we are human beings, we are the sum total of all our experience, including our memories and we have to come to terms with those.”
Gonsalves reiterated his promise to do a “proper memorial; a physical memorial” for those who died.
“And that memorial is coming. It I being done, the concept, the idea. We need to have it done in a very sensitive way and manner. And maybe as the few months pass, give us a clearer idea of what this memorial should be like.
“Of course, you will have to tell me whether you want the memorial here in Fancy or you want the memorial down at Rock Gutter itself, or something in Rock Gutter and something in Fancy. But there will be a fitting physical memorial for our seven angels,” he said.