The tragic death of seven-year-old Ciara Benjamin on Saturday last is perhaps the most-talked-about issue in Guyana and the wider Diaspora these past few days. Many persons were in shock and disbelief as photos and videos of the tragedy began to emerge on Facebook and other forms of social media platforms. Mobile phones and high-speed internet made it possible for persons who were at the scene of the accident to broadcast ‘live’ as events unfolded.
Many of us were given close-up shots of all that took place, some of which we must say were very irresponsible and reckless. However, this irresponsible behaviour, ie, of persons taking selfies and close-up shots of accident victims and then posting them on social media, could perhaps be dealt with at another time.
Certainly, over the next few days, more facts surrounding the cause of the accident that resulted in the untimely death of the child will emerge. As it stands, there is a lot of speculation as to how the accident happened, and who should be blamed. What is clear is that such tragedies could be avoided.
Little Ciara had practically just started living. Like many others her age, she would have imagined what she wanted to become when she grew older. Unfortunately, she did not get the opportunity to explore and achieve her dreams. Based on reports received, after visiting a relative in Agricola, on her way home, as the child was attempting to cross the road with her aunt, at about 16:45h in the vicinity of the Independence Arch at Agricola, she was crushed by a sand truck which reportedly swerved from hitting another vehicle.
The truck remained fixed on the median with the child pinned underneath for some time. About one hour later, a forklift and crane were used to lift the vehicle and remove the child’s remains. Her body was completely severed in two.
While it is not our remit to comment on the cause of the accident in particular, as it is up to the Police to do their job, our hope is that the authorities would learn something from this most recent incident. In fact, in due course, it would be helpful if the authorities were to carry out a thorough review to determine what could be done to avoid or minimise such tragedies, and also how they could better respond to such emergency situations in future; for example, from crowd control to securing the accident/crime scene, etc.
There are several questions which remain in relation to the Police Force’s handling of the events surrounding this tragedy. Moments after the incident, we saw the vigilante-style beating of the driver and the subsequent burning of the truck. Videos on social media showed that the truck driver was dripping blood as a result of the beating and stoning he had received.
After the beating, he was handed over to the Police, who took him to the Georgetown Public Hospital to seek medical attention.
We are forced to ask where the Police were in all of this, and whether they couldn’t have prevented the mob from attacking the driver.
Despite the circumstances surrounding an accident, no one should assault any driver or road user. This is clearly against the law, and it is hoped that the authorities would send a strong message in this regard, as this seems to be the norm in some communities.
We also witnessed the subsequent burning of the truck. Here, again, why wasn’t the crime/accident scene cordoned off and protected, and the entire area manned by an increased number of ranks, considering the tension-filled environment? While we are pleased that the Police have made a commitment to charge persons who were involved in these acts, this was done only after the fact.
Also, it is necessary to underline the point that, in such emergency situations, the Police, Fire Service, medical and other emergency response teams must be on the alert, and be fully equipped to deal with certain situations that may arise.
Meanwhile, some persons have pointed to the need for an overhead pass for pedestrians in that particular area, as it is very difficult to cross the road there. Some have also called on the authorities to create more diversions for traffic going into Georgetown and East Coast communities. This, we believe, is needed, as the vehicles using our roadways have increased ten-fold over the years, while the road network system has basically remained the same.
There are also calls for increased awareness and education on the proper use of our roads.
As expected, the young mother and father will have to face a long road to recovery in trying to cope with their only child’s untimely death. The authorities must waste no time in ensuring that the necessary support, such as counselling, etc, is provided to them.