The lawyers representing the two men charged in connection with the deaths of seven students at Rock Gutter two years ago have noted that nothing has been done to make the area safer.
Ehud Myers, a 67-year-old pastor, and Davanan Nanton, a 36-year-old chauffeur, have each been charged with seven counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Jan. 12, 2015 tragedy.
The students died when the minivan in which they were travelling crashed into the sea, apparently after its brake failed.
In making a no case submission at the end of a month-long preliminary inquiry on Wednesday, Myers’ lawyer, Grant Connell told the Serious Offences Court in Kingstown that the entire nation felt the pain that resulted from the incident.
“We cannot change the past. We cannot dictate the future. But we can do something now. It is a gift. That’s why we call it the present,” he said in his closing submissions before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias.
“The question we must ask ourselves, what has been done since to prevent another Rock Gutter and prevent our nation from feeling such pain again and that parents would never see their children again … who, in words of [the investigator,] Station Sergeant [Junior] Nero, … looked at the Coast Guard floating outside as the bodies washed ashore?”
Connell, who had taken his boat and civilian divers that morning to help in the rescue and recovery, said that it seems that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines everyone must have one quality to be a hero: “We must die.”
He, however, said the nation must look and see where true power in the land lies and those who did not think of themselves when they went into the water to try to save the students.
“I add this because I, too, was out there,” Connell said.
He asked the court “to let the case come to a grinding halt.
“Let it rest so that the souls of those children as Ehud Myers said, one of them, [who] … gave her life to Christ at his church, would be at pains to know that we are prosecuting him…”
And, Israel Bruce, who is representing Nanton in the case, described the incident as an “unfortunate tragedy”.
He said he had recently heard statements “about the presence of some symbolism to remind persons of this tragedy at Rock Gutter”.
Bruce was speaking of the plaque erected in memory of the students, which was unveiled on Tuesday.
“I say we need more than symbolism to remind people and the relevant authorities need to make sure that they put in place protective barriers on the northern tip of St. Vincent and the Grenadines where a number of beautiful mountains and valleys exist.
“But they are existing within the framework of lurking danger. We must demonstrate our love for our people, and the unfortunate loss of these seven lives should teach us a deeper lesson. Not a lesson in prosecution, but a lesson in love and care for our people,” Bruce told the court.
The magistrate will give her decision next week Friday, March 31.
The Taiwan Embassy in Kingstown procured the commemorative plaque after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told the Taiwan ambassador, Baushuan Ger in December that the government planned to dedicate a plaque for the children on Jan. 12 this year.
Ger told the unveiling ceremony on Tuesday that due to certain unforeseen circumstances, that government’s plan didn’t work out, and Gonsalves asked if his embassy could be of any assistance in such a short notice.
When the owner of that Taiwanese company that made the plaque learned about the tragedy and the purpose of this commemorative plaque, he not only committed to source a piece of beautiful granite stone but also decided to provide the plaque and the masonry work free of charge.
As the shipment from Asia to SVG encountered significant delays during the holiday season, this plaque didn’t make it to St. Vincent in time for the Jan. 12 anniversary of the tragedy, Ger said.