Choiseul Horror!

The last thing anyone expected to hear on Thursday evening, particularly Choiseul residents was that a bus filled with people had plummeted off the edge of a precipice in the Morne Seon area straight onto the beach. Moments after the horrific crash frantic messages flew back and forth over BlackBerry and other social networks with the unbelievable news.
According to police reports the accident occurred at about 7:45pm on Thursday, November 10 and resulted in the death of sixteen persons all from the community of Dugard, Micoud. The 14-seater Toyota minivan being driven by 47-year-old Michael Alexander of Micoud was traveling in the direction of Choiseul village from the community of Delcer, Choiseul when it ran off the road.
When the STAR arrived to Choiseul on Friday morning residents described the nightmarish scene the night before. It had been no easy task to get onto the beach itself and people grabbed onto each other so no one slipped off the rocks as the waves crashed in. At that point it was clear how difficult it might have been to maneuver the rocks in the dark as some residents had done in order to try to help in any way they could.
The beach was filled with curious onlookers all wishing to get a better view of the vehicle in broad daylight and though most of the bodies had been taken away the somber mood remained. The mangled light blue metal on the shoreline didn’t for one second resemble a minivan.                 As this reporter took in the scene the hushed conversations of onlookers said there was something else that needed to be checked out. Just that morning at about 6:30am the body of a 12-year-old girl had been recovered at sea by an elderly man in the area and her body still lay covered just yards away from the wrecked van. There was also talk of a missing baby, yet as two women expressed, “God is good.” Both were holding onto faith that the child would be found.
The STAR ran into SLP candidate for Choiseul Lorne Theophilus who was on the scene Thursday night and Friday morning. Theophilus expressed that he and his team had just come from a political meeting with residents on Thursday evening when they received word of the accident.
“We went onto the scene immediately and at that time we saw basically two bodies on the ground and an overturned vehicle,” he retold. “The police were just about to get onto the scene when we got there.”
Theophilus said it turned out to be an even bigger disaster when the vehicle was overturned and everyone realized there were 15 or more people dead.
“There was a young girl on the ground at the time, she was alive but perished soon after,” he said. “It was chaotic, but what it showed was that there were a lot of people who were willing to help, and it shows the spirit of the Choiseul people. They went out into the water, overturned the vehicle and tried to recover people from the water. They were very helpful. It shows the spirit of the people, they can come together in times of need.”
A few steps away from the van a group of people spoke about the fact that they felt at that point there should have been coast guards scoping the waters for more bodies. People expressed disappointment at the way residents who’d been the first ones on the scene recovering bodies and helping in any way they could had been brushed aside by the police once they arrived.
“The very same people who got there before the police who were pulling bodies out they were chasing them,” one woman expressed. “I understand they needed to do their investigations but they could have handled it in a different manner. One man told them he was the one who pulled the bodies out and they didn’t tell him anything after that.”
The “gentleman in the blue hat” she spoke of sat in an area cordoned off by police smoking a cigarette until the STAR motioned him over.
When asked why he’d decided to help out, 65-year-old Thomas Lamontage, a Choiseul resident smiled shyly, hesitated then responded that he did not know.
“I felt sorry,” he finally expressed. “I helped pull out about 15 people. There were a lot of people helping. We got the people dead on the beach and I just started to help.”
Later that morning the STAR met up with Grantley Modeste, father of three children involved in the accident: 13-year-old Dexter Modeste who attended the Saltibus Combined School, Salitha Modeste who would have turned 16 in March who attended Augier Secondary School and 17-year-old Terry Modeste.
Modeste said his children had attended the funeral of their mother Samantha Phillip’s aunt earlier in the day and later went to the wake. Samantha Phillip also passed away in the crash along with her four other children.
“Three of the children were mine with my ex-girlfriend Samantha and she had four of her own,” Modeste explained.
“I lost all my children. They were going home and I don’t know what happened, if the driver didn’t know the road but they fell over.”
I went there one time,” he said. “When I got there the first thing I saw was my daughter on the sand so I came closer. I saw my ex-girlfriend’s daughter on the sand too. When I went
closer I saw that they were dead. All seven children died, Samantha and her boyfriend. When I couldn’t take it anymore I just fell on the ground.
“Some people were trying to keep me up but I could not believe that. I was very close to my children. I didn’t want to say it was my daughter because of the way she was. After a while they tried to take the van up and they brought the other bodies on the sand. I didn’t see one of my children nor their mother, but I was trying to see them. They didn’t find all their bodies right away but after I left they found them. It’s still very sad for me. Up to now I can’t check myself proper, that’s a hard thing for me.”
Modeste spoke of his children the way only a proud father could and recalled seeing them just hours before the accident. Before they left the funeral he said they’d come to talk to him in the Choiseul Village.
“I didn’t go to the funeral but I was in the area,” he said. “They came to check me, greeted me, asked me how I was and chatted with me. My daughter wanted me to buy something for her and my youngest son came to hold me and I said, “Gasa you come to funeral with your school uniform?” and he laughed. I had a nice little chat with the eldest one, Terry… he was in a little court thing. He told me it had been adjourned and I told him it was okay.
“I told my daughter I’d call her. I wanted to buy a phone for her, she told me no problem. They made me feel alright when I saw them.  After a while they told me they were going, they even asked me if I wanted to go for a lime with them.”
Police are currently conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the traffic accident.
The Choiseul incident has been declared the worst accident in St Lucia’s history and condolences have been coming in from all over the world. Several news agencies in the region have also picked up the story.

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