Driver in accident may walk as Sea Lots probe botched

By Dr Sheila Rampersad
April 11, 2013 –

PoliceWhat might have been an open-and-shut case against a police officer, who ploughed into six residents of Sea Lots along the Beetham Highway, Port-of-Spain, on February 24, has turned into a lengthy and muddled investigation. Three people died and three others were injured in the crash, which occurred along the westbound lane of the highway.

The T&T Guardian was reliably informed that a breathalyser test, which measures blood alcohol level, was administered at 2.47 pm on the day of the fatal collision, almost six hours after the incident. It was administered at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital by WPC Marcia Lopez, a trained breath analysis technician assigned to Besson Street Police Station.

The police officer who was driving the vehicle passed the test with a reading of zero. The breathalyser test was administered in the presence of attending physician Dr Prathap Kumar. The T&T Guardian has also learnt that a blood sample was taken from the off-duty policeman and sent for testing but in an untidy twist, investigators have reported that the blood sample was tested on a machine that was not properly calibrated.

As a result the blood sample has been spoilt. The February 24 collision occurred around 9.10 am. Haydee Paul, 28, and her daughters, Shakira, seven, and Akasha, eight, were on the pavement of the westbound lane of the highway, close to Production Drive, Sea Lots, when a car driven by an off-duty policeman mounted the pavement and slammed into them. They died instantly.

Autopsies on mother and daughters found that they all died of multiple blunt-force traumas. Three other residents—Abigail Assing, Amanda Lalla and Ryan “Dhal” Rampersad—were injured. Assing spent 11 days at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital with injuries to the left side of her body, including her arm and hip, before she was discharged on March 6.

Amanda Lalla is still hospitalised along with Ryan Rampersad, a 20-year-old father of two, who is in critical condition. His mother, Pearl James, told the T&T Guardian last week that her son, who has been in a coma since the accident, is 98 per cent paralysed.

The accident precipitated enraged protests in Sea Lots, with residents complaining that the off-duty officer who was driving the vehicle was intoxicated. They accused police of removing a half-full bottle of alcohol from the vehicle. They also claimed that several police officers showed up after the crash and transported the driver to the hospital, but left the Sea Lots victims lying on the road awaiting ambulances.

Up to the time of writing, the T&T Guardian was told that the police investigator assigned to the case, acting Supt Moses Charles, had not reported the identities of the officers who turned up at the scene of the accident and transported their colleague to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.

There are two CCTV cameras that could have captured both the collision and its aftermath. One is a police camera and the other controlled by the Ministry of Works. However, no video was captured because of technical and/or operational failures, the T&T Guardian was told.

The driver of the vehicle which caused the tragedy was treated first at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital and later the same day at the St Clair Medical Centre, where he was referred for a CAT scan. He was discharged a day later, on February 25. Today marks 46 days since the incident.

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12 thoughts on “Driver in accident may walk as Sea Lots probe botched”

  1. omg ! this is simply not justice in t&t. People please make a big stink about this ,march and march till all ya feet drop off.speak to the press, speak to the police commission ,not that i have much faith in them but at least let it go on record.i want everybody to think of this as if it was their love ones or family /friends and ask yourself what would you do ? all who is directly or indirectly connected to this should be held responsible.It is now clear how many corrupted officers exist it looks like 97% corrupted and 3 % could pass with a push.

  2. Something smells fishy here. Police investing police, I smell a rat. What the government needs to do is have a special investigative unit, independent of the police investigate accidents, shooting etc comitted by the police instead of the current circus. That way training can be improved and officers disciplined or fired.

  3. “Something smells fishy here.” Mamoo, that is an understatement, and Neal you might be correct. But that is what the citizens of T&T have to live with, especially the poor ones. This not the first time that something like this has happened involving a police officer. I have heard of situations where the relatives have been threatened and arrested for petty crimes until they keep quiet.
    The police is untouchable and the politicians only talk loud and say nothing. But as usual, the general population will forget about this, leaving only the handful of families to lick their wounds.
    The politicians will continue to thief our head with promises and, we will continue to argue about which party is better. We will continue to have no say after we cast our votes and put our “favourites” in power. We will continue to burn a few tyres in the streets and the motto of the Police Service will continue to be “After God is Police.”

  4. Wasn’t the Ag. Police Commissioner quoted by the press of recent for giving a figure of ‘bad apples’ within the police force? How many times; cases, mainly traffic, called before the courts cannot proceed because of missing files from the police? How many times was the Minister of National Security called to resign? Is it 36 times to date? Then, why is so much stats kept for elections, politics in general, when simple figures that affect the lives of every citizen in this land cannot be brought forward? You are correct Mammo, police should not be allowed to investigate themselves. From the undermentioned, there are files but missing samples not received. The key words here are a lack of discipline and professionalism in executing duties.

    1. The thing is if I am an officer working with you and I am involved in such a horrible accident due to careless driving. I am sure you would do what you can to protect our friendship. Even hiding a bottle of booze and botching the blood sample. That is why an independent investigation unit is needed. Justice must not only appear to be done it should be done in manner that makes the public comfortable.

  5. While we all agree that an independent investigation unit is needed, that is easier said than done in T&T.
    It is not easy to get evidence from the police if you are an independent investigator; they protect each other, from Captain to Cook. Remember how the English investigators were frustrated when doing the drug probe a few years ago?
    Some sort of legislation has to be passed to make police more accountable for their actions, with a serious punishment clause. Until then, we are spinning top in mud, and the motto will remain “After God is Police.”

  6. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mervyn Richardson, was quoted as saying, “Because there was an accident it does not mean officers have to administer a breathalyzer test.”
    That is what we have posing as senior officers in our Protective Services.
    Every accident should have some sort of test for substance use. This should be the first thing. It is a determination of human or mechanical fault. Most times the vehicle(s) may be damaged beyond testing, so we start with what state were the occupants in. It is sometimes necessary to check the victim(s) also. Did someone say 21st Century policing or something like that?

    To compound this attempt at stupidity, our very talkative Minister of National Security, Mr. Jack “36 times” Warner stated that he has to hear the police side of the story, and when pressed further about the length of time the investigation is taking, he makes reference to the Calder Hart and Lawrence Duprey issues. I wonder who the Minister of National Security of T&T is blaming for these delays?

  7. “Some more legislation ..,” blah , blah! Hey Frontsman ,what’s it with you Trinis , and your unwholesome daily obsessions, for new legislations? Pretty soon, you folks would demand your clueless politicians ,put laws in place ,to dictate what color underwear we should use, or how frequent we can go to a toilet, and – heavens forbid-ethnic groups,we should date /marry , huh?
    Give it a rest guys! Just to let you know – government make laws, but more importantly,only one body enforces them. Yep – Police!
    Feeding this police to the lions at our Emperor Valley Zoo, won’t bring back a life, or ease the pain of poor ,suffering folks all across Beetham.
    Equal playing field , socio economic justice will!

  8. It is , if Jack Warner, Basdeo Panday, and two UNC high rollers,Ish,and Steve , never see jail time.It is if Clico Duprey, and HCU bandit CEO Harry Harnarine , never pay a price , for their criminal acts ,against innocent , duped victims.

    It is , if even after all the money spent , and Commission hearings, Abu Bakr, and his Islamist goons , don’t either receive the death penalty, or spend the rest of their miserable lives,behind bars.
    Anything outside of that , we call justice , and simply due process.
    Give it time guys. you and I should not get to decide when we like the law- namely , when it works’s in our favor.
    Democracy , ain’t always pretty.
    Say yes, to equal playing field justice .

    Charge the cop immediately. That was the instruction issued yesterday by Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard with respect to the off-duty police officer involved in the accident in which a mother and her two young daughters were killed in Sea Lots on February 24.

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