The two men who were, on Friday, freed of seven counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of seven students in the Rock Gutter bus crash two years ago have again asked their community of Fancy for forgiveness.
Ehud Myers, a 67-year-old pastor and Davanan Nanton, a 36-year-old chauffer walked out of the Serious Offences Court free men after Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias upheld no case submissions by their lawyers.
“I am glad that this has taken its course. I am glad that it went to justice. It is not about me special. Yes, everybody wanted justice; yes, I wanted justice as well and I thank God that justice has really finally taken its course,” Nanton, the driver of the bus told iWitness News after the court ruling.
The seven students — Racquel Ashton, Chanstacia Stay, Glenroy Michael, Jamall and Jamalie Edwards, Simonique Ballantyne and Anique Alexander — died on Jan. 12, 2015 when minibus HL636, in which they were travelling on their way to school, careened down a steep section of road and plunged into the sea in the North Windward community.
The students were among 21 people on board the bus, which was owned by the Fancy Apostolic Faith Church.
The minivan had began transporting the students, at the request of parents in the community, after a bus sourced by the Rotary Club was decommissioned when it began having problems after several years of service.
“I love everybody. I love everybody,” Nanton further told iWitness News after Friday’s court ruling.
“I have suffered as well. I have suffered –mentally, spiritually — all how (in many ways) I have suffered. And it’s like the only thing I have holding on to right now is Jesus.
“I want to say I am very sorry for the lives that were lost in that accident, knowing that I could have lost my life that said morning as well as I [went] back into that water to save the lives of other children and almost lost mine.
“I did not even know I was wounded so bad and was losing blood and to the end, I myself had to get help so that I would be able to make it to be alive standing here today,” Nanton said.
He told iWitness News that he sustained cuts on his hand and pulled his shirt out of his pants to reveal a large scar from a cut across his belly.
“This was a cut I had and was losing blood even as I was fighting in that water saving lives.”
In his interview with police, played in court, Nanton said that as the van began to pick up speed going downhill, he stopped a conversation he was having with one of the passengers and concentrated on his options.
He said that he knew if he had banked the vehicle on either side of the road — to the left, towards the sea, or the right, toward the rock face — there would have been certain carnage.
He purposed to try to keep the van on the road, hoping that if he could make it around the corner at the foot of the hill, the terrain ahead would bring the van to a stop.
The police investigation suggests that the van went off the road after hitting a curb and a land pole on the left hand side of the road.
“I have done my best. I have done my very best to do what I [could] to save the lives. I never meant to hurt anyone. My children could have been in that van that same morning too, if they were going to the same school,” Nanton told iWitness News.
He urged residents of Fancy to try to move past the accident and return to the love and unity that existed before it.
“Let us forgive one other, see it as it was: just an accident. As the court declared, they themselves, they heard it. I could have done nothing. I did my very best that morning and even before to help my people. And I just want to tell them one thing: in spite of all, I still love them,” Nanton told iWitness News.
Meanwhile, Myers, who was the conductor on the bus on the day of the accident, gave God praise for the outcome.
“First of all, I have to give thanks to God, the one whom I serve daily. It is an emotional thing but I have to give thanks to God first for taking us out of this situation because many were wishing us to go to prison,” Myers told iWitness News outside the Serious Offences Court, shortly after he was prayed for by one of his brethren who went to court frequently to support the accused men.
“I felt discouraged many of the time, but because I serve the true and living God, sometimes His spirit whispered back to my mind. So I continue praying,” said Myers, who noted that Luke 18 says that men ought always to play and not lose heart.
He further told iWitness News that the Bible says earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children and God knows much more how to do so.
“So I continue to pray and put my trust in him.”
Myers said that on the day of the tragedy they left home “on a good note”.
“Along our journey, this thing struck and it’s only God alone knows what did happen. I myself could have passed. I spent 15 days in the hospital. I get damaged and everything.”
Myers sustained a fractured neck, had to have a graft in his right foot and his lungs were traumatised. Also, because he struck his head in the accident, his eyesight was affected.
He said his lungs are not fully healed and he is still on treatment.
Meanwhile, Nanton’s mother, Bernadine Nedd, pleaded with her community to forgive the men, saying this is important for healing to begin.
“On behalf of my family, I would like to ask the people of Fancy that if we can go back to the love that we had before and bring peace and healing because if you don’t forgive, there wouldn’t be any healing,” she told iWitness News.
Nedd and her son had embraced each other and cried in the corridor of the court after the ruling.
She said that for the two years since the accident the community has gone through a lot.
“My son, he almost faint by the way,” she said, adding that he has lost a lot of weight and that her own marriage collapsed under the stress of the fallout from the accident.
“And with me, because I have to be up and down with my son, I lost a lot. I lost my husband,” she said, adding that her marriage failed because her husband is based in Canouan.
Myers and Nanton were freed after the court upheld a no case submission made earlier on their behalf by their lawyers, Grant Connell and Israel Bruce.
The submissions were made at the end of a 10-month-long preliminary inquiry — which included months-long adjournments – in which 22 persons testified.
Myers and Nanton, along with school principal Colbert Bowens were charged in later 2016 after the completion of a coroner’s inquest.
However, at the commencement of the preliminary inquiry last May, the Crown indicated that it was not proceeding against Bowens.