Barbados: Crop Over Marred by Crashes

Crop Over is one of Barbados’ most beloved festivals. Lasting about five weeks and designed to celebrate the end of the local sugar cane harvest, its Carnival-like atmosphere culminates with The Grand Kadooment – a parade in which large throngs of elaborately costumed revelers depict a variety of themes and basically have a great time at this all-day street party.

But the event that grabbed Crop Over headlines this year was not the opening gala or the Pic-O-De-Crop calypso competition. It was the terrible bus crash that claimed the lives of six Barbadians as they made their way to the Party Monarch Finals. The nation was suddenly thrust into mourning and Barbadian bloggers have been extremely vocal about it…

Barbados Free Press offered its condolences to the victims’ families and linked to an online report which gave details of the accident and printed the names of the deceased. Barbados Underground linked to the same story, adding:

“We have some strong views on how this matter was handled yesterday; but we appreciate that it is the morning after and continues to be a very sensitive time for the family and the country.”

BU then issued this caveat:

“For those readers who do not want to read about our initial views which we will elaborate on at a future date you can stop reading HERE.”

The blog then goes on to say:

“We want to state for the record that Minister Dale Marshall should relax a little. This is not a time to score cheap political points…The Party Monarch Finals on the East Coast should have been canceled. Some novel way of splitting the prize money among on the performers could have been done. BU is abolutely sure that patrons would have understood. People in and out of Barbados would have understood.”

Cheese on Bread also had a few questions:

“Do the officials at the Ministry of Public Works drive around Barbados? Can't they spot potential road hazards just like the rest of us mere mortals? Why does it appear as if people have to die before the relevant authorities improve certain roads?”

Bajegirl posted an online poll to determine how many people were of the opinion that the Party Monarch Finals should have been canceled once news of the accident broke.

Notes From The Margin was full of praise for Barbados’ emergency services, “for showing amazing grace under inhuman pressure”:

“Most persons do not know that Barbados has a very detailed, very well thought out system for dealing with mass casualty events. In the recent past it has been used most frequently for accidents involving ZR’s. Sunday was by far the most serious incident that it has been used for…I’m particularly impressed that a review process is being automatically done with a debriefing of the participants, and that counselling has been put into place for not just the victims but the first responders as well.”

As Barbadians the world over turned to the internet for information on the tragedy, Barbados Free Press noted that “as a matter of sad record, today has seen the highest number of visitors that BFP has ever had in one 24-hour period”:

“We point these statistics out with no joy or sense of accomplishment because, of course, we wish today had never happened the way it did – but the visitor statistics are an indication of the interest and concern shown by folks everywhere. All of us at BFP hope that the families and friends who are suffering at this moment can take some small comfort in knowing that the entire Bajan family at home and around the world is praying for them and sharing in their troubles.”

The blog also asked the question: “When will it be appropriate to ask ‘What Went Wrong?'”:

“Even families in the midst of tragedy are torn between their need of privacy and comfort with loved ones – and their realisation that if they don’t demand accountability, there may be none. Injected into all this is a reality that many…have doubts about the integrity of some in the police and the government. This lack of trust in our public officials makes things more difficult for everyone, even the police and public officials who are earnestly and honestly attempting to bring order and provide answers so that this never happens again. Some of our readers are already discussing possible causes, and some are being very quick – way too quick – to assign various levels of blame to named persons or the government.”

Living in Barbados suggests that accidents like these are “a common cost of fast development”:

“Barbados is made up mainly of narrow roads, and some of the driving that I have seen is totally out of keeping with an essentially rural environment, with vehicles being driven more like racing cars, especially buses. My hope is that Barbadians learn from the spread of this problem in other Caribbean countries and work hard to avoid such tragedies becoming common place.”

Barbados Underground was critical of the fact that “the Barbados Labour Party Blog or their official website is in no rush to extend condolences via the online medium”:

“We acknowledge that they would have communicated sympathy in the traditional ways but at a time when technology makes the Internet a more effective tool in a communications plan, it speaks volumes for where we are as a people given our reluctance to use what is without a doubt the most effective and efficient means to communicate a message.”

To add fuel to the fire of controversy, Barbados Free Press broke the news that journalists at the scene of the crash were allegedly assaulted by members of the police force. This was soon followed by a post that claimed the police “might have been a wee bit hasty in destroying what would have been extremely useful evidence in reconstructing the accident scene”:

“You see, the Nation News journalist had taken photos that no one else took – not even the police – and in all the efforts to remove the living and the dead no one else took photos of the bus and the scene exactly as it was at that time. Only Culbard’s photos had those original details, and the police destroyed them. I simply long for a professional police force that sees respect for the rule of law as their highest duty and enforces it uniformly across our entire population.”

Notes From the Margin, on learning that the Nation News filed a complaint with the police department, says:

“There would seem to be the need for a clear policy on how the police/journalist interactions should take place in these events. It is unrealistic to believe that the press will not be present at a mass casualty situation. It is unrealistic to believe that they will not try to cover the event. While the victims have a right to dignity and privacy, there is the issue of freedom of the press and the right of the public to know. With the lack of a consistent policy on this matter, we will continue to see stories like this in the media.”

Another story like that did hit the media a few days later, when an Emancipation Day crash killed four family members. Barbados Free Press:

“My friends, I am lost for words. It has been a rough day…my faith sometimes wears very thin.”

Living in Barbados could say nothing more than:

“I have no particular comment at this time, other than a sense of numbness when I look at the result of the crash in the form of the overturned vehicle. Again, my sympathies go to the families and friends who are now grieving. It has been a brutal few days on this island.”


  • Basil Maughan

    The Joe’s River crash aftermath begs a question: How is it that some people were lying there, waiting to about 5:00pm to be transported to the QEH? The question of availability of ambulances has been raised and the public has been told that there were sufficient ambulances and therefore no need to involve any private ambulance services. We have been told that there were eight ambulances transporting victims. So why the delay? This question has not been answered.

    I think this tragedy underscores like nothing else, the need for a hospital in the north of the island.

  • Casava Pone

    Even if there was a hospital in the north of the island, it still would have been no help as the fastese road from there to the north of the island would have been closed for the Party Monarch Finals…namely Ermie Bourne Highway.

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