This week began with tragedy in St. Vincent when a bus plunged off a cliff and into the sea on Monday, killing several children. The accident reportedly happened between Owia and Fancy, the country’s northern-most village.
Thanks to its hilly terrain, this part of the country, which has a sizeable Amerindian population, enjoys spectacular views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Reports suggest that children from the area were on their way to school in Georgetown (located within the same vicinity, but on the flat) when the accident occurred.
One Facebook user, Skye Hernandez, who is based in Trinidad and Tobago but has visited St. Vincent on several occasions, was saddened by the news, saying that “so many kids [were] lost in such a small place.” She also noted that the area where the accident occurred is “a terrifying but beautiful drive”, explaining:
it's a very spectacular area, like much of St Vincent, and there are surprisingly few accidents, but this one is heartbreaking.
Rescue efforts have been hampered by rough seas, to the point where hardly any new information about the accident is being released. Monday's reports suggest that at least four children are dead and another eight missing. A later report said that officials have since verified five fatalities. Ten survivors are reportedly being treated in hospital for their injuries and the country's Ministry of Health has confirmed that approximately 21 passengers, among them 14 secondary school students, were in the bus when the incident occurred.
Citizen media sources who knew villagers who were on the scene reported that eyewitnesses were trying to help retrieve bodies from the water. Every time a wave dashed a body onto the rocks, the entire crowd would cry out in pain. The seawater at the crash site was apparently so rough that it hampered the country's coast guard from reaching the bodies. Thankfully, a fisherman managed to rescue a few people.
As the nation grappled with the tragedy, the government put everything else on the back burner, even delaying the delivery of its annual budget presentation, which was due to be read in parliament that afternoon.
Twitter was soon flooded with comments about the disaster. West Indian cricketer Darren Sammy, who hails from St. Lucia, called St. Vincent his “sister island”:
— Darren Sammy (@darrensammy88) January 12, 2015
Some local businesses used social media to express their shock and sadness:
— St. Vincent YP (@StVincent_YP) January 13, 2015
One Twitter user, Richard Hung, made the point that when tragedies like this happen, the entire region stands in solidarity:
— Richard Hung (@jus_b_cool) January 13, 2015
— careergrenada (@careergrenada) January 14, 2015
The news quickly reached the Caribbean diaspora, as Trinidadian Phil Simmons, who lives in the UK, tweeted:
Extremely sad news coming out of #StVincent my prayers are with all the families involved
— Phil Simmons (@Coachsim13) January 13, 2015
Another Twitter user, Abka Fitz-Henley, was supposedly privy to the cause of the accident:
JUST IN: around 12 children dead in a bus accident this morning in #StVincent. Brakes on a bus cut going down a hill, bus went into ocean
— Abka Fitz-Henley (@AbkaFitzHenley) January 12, 2015
In trying to make sense of the loss, Elma Gabriel-Mayers wrote a poem, “In Times Like These”, which was published by one of St. Vincent's news outlets:
It is so very sad to hear,
And I know it is your pain to bear.
But be assured that I am near,
With you and yours, I shed some tears.