Death of teen fire vic­tim leaves void in the lives of spe­cial-needs school fam­ily

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ryon Jones Sun­day Gleaner Writer

CHRISTINA PEART had been hold­ing her breath and des­per­ately wait­ing to hear long-time friend San­jay Wil­liams tell her he liked her. She had had a crush on him for as long as she could re­mem­ber and hoped with all her heart that he would re­turn the af­fec­tion.

Alas, be­cause of the il­le­gal and care­less ac­tion of oth­ers, that day will never come.

Four­teen-year-old Wil­liams was a vic­tim of last Sun­day’s mas­sive ex­plo­sion at an il­le­gal gas-fill­ing plant on Jacques Road, off Moun­tain View Av­enue in St An­drew. Sev­eral com­pressed gas cylin­ders from a stor­age tank at­tached to the back of a mo­tor truck ex­ploded, se­ri­ously in­jur­ing five per­sons, two of whom died.

Forty-eight-year-old Everett Austin died on Mon­day, while Wil­liams passed away on Thurs­day at the Kingston Pub­lic Hospi­tal, de­spite des­per­ate ef­forts to save him. One of the teen’s broth­ers, who was also in­jured in the ex­plo­sion, is among the three per­sons still ad­mit­ted in se­ri­ous con­di­tion.

Wil­liams was an eighth-grade stu­dent at the Ran­dolph Lopez School of Hope in St An­drew for spe­cial-needs chil­dren, be­cause of his in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity. His

death has left the en­tire school com­mu­nity in mourn­ing, but es­pe­cially his class­mates. Chief among them is Peart, whom he spoke to the most in class.

The young lady said that dur­ing her last con­ver­sa­tion with Wil­liams, she told him she liked him, and al­though he re­sponded that he did not like her, his ac­tions al­ways in­di­cated oth­er­wise.

“I told him that I liked him and he said he didn’t like me, but he was very kind to me and I know he re­ally liked me too,” Peart told The Sun­day Gleaner. “I feel sad. I knew him from pri­mary school and he would call me some­times.”

Wil­liams’ class teacher Lsy­hann Lecky re­vealed that stu­dents and teach­ers alike cried openly when news broke of the tragedy.

“He was loved by his friends. I didn’t know that he was loved so much un­til they heard of his pass­ing and ev­ery­one started cry­ing,” a sor­row­ful Lecky shared.

“He was re­ally kind. We re­cently got a new stu­dent who was in a wheel­chair; the only stu­dent in a wheel­chair, and San­jay would ac­tu­ally push up the wheel­chair to the stu­dent and try to lift him up, but he is re­ally tall and frail in body, so I told him not to do that, so he would push up the wheel­chair and say, ‘Come Miss, your time now’.”

Ronardo Lind­say, who also hails from Jacques Road and suf­fered mi­nor burns to his left leg from the ex­plo­sion, re­vealed that he still cries each time he looks at his friend’s pic­ture.

“Is foot­ball we said we were go­ing to play and I went to call him and he said he will soon come when it hap­pened,” Lind­say re­counted. “When I heard (he died), I felt sad, and when I got home, I started to cry, and I told my mother and she started cry­ing too.”

He con­tin­ued, “Ev­ery time I look at his pic­ture, I just cry. He was so kind to me and he was my best, best friend from in sev­enth

grade. And he didn’t hurt me no time. He would al­ways give me his things and I give him things I have, and we went home to­gether ev­ery day.”


Prin­ci­pal of the school, Sylvestina Reid, de­scribed Wil­liams as a dis­ci­plined child

whose par­ents did not have to be sum­moned to the school for any rea­son.

“If San­jay does any­thing wrong and you cor­rect him, he would lis­ten and take heed,” Reid shared. “He wasn’t one of those who flared up; never. He would say, ‘OK, I am sorry’, and he would move on.”

Lecky said the young man was a steady stu­dent, and while there was usu­ally a deficit in spell­ing with boys, this was the sub­ject he ex­celled at.

“He was re­ally quiet and had a calm de­meanour; he didn’t talk much. He would mainly speak with the girl be­side him. She (Peart) had known him from pri­mary school, so they spoke a lot, but it wouldn’t dis­rupt the class,” Lecky said.

“The only prob­lem I had with him was that at lunchtime, he would play so much that when he came into the class, his shirt would be wet, wet.”


Most of that sweat­ing would be due to him play­ing his favourite sport, foot­ball, an­other thing he ex­celled at. In fact, he was one of the star play­ers on the school’s foot­ball team.

“San­jay was the vice-cap­tain of the foot­ball team be­cause he was a well-be­haved boy. He was like a leader to some of the other boys,” phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher and foot­ball coach Roan Mon­tague shared as he fought to hold back tears.

“He was al­ways threat­en­ing me that he was go­ing to pile me when we would play foot­ball to­gether be­cause he was a very good foot­ball player. But foot­ball wasn’t even his great­est at­tribute; it is the fact that he was such a well-be­haved boy. When oth­ers were giv­ing trou­ble, he would be the one to say ‘be­have your­selves’.”

Wil­liams, who played on the team for the past two years, missed their open­ing match of the sea­son, which was played the same day he died.

“He had been to ev­ery foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion that we have had be­cause he was a very good player, scor­ing goals for the team, mak­ing passes, de­fend­ing. He was a well-rounded player,” Mon­tague con­tin­ued.

“A se­ri­ous void has been left be­cause he was a leader and be­cause of the po­si­tion he played. Those are all gone now.”



Sylvestina Reid, prin­ci­pal of the Ran­dolph Lopez School of Hope (left) and teacher Lsy­hann Lecky.


Sylvestina Reid, prin­ci­pal of the Ran­dolph Lopez School of Hope (left), and foot­ball coach Roan Mon­tague

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