PAINFUL HELL!

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Bar­bara.gayle@glean­erjm.com

EIGHT YEARS af­ter 43year-old Christopher Wat­son suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries when a small air­plane in which he was a pas­sen­ger crashed in the Blue Moun­tains, he is still suf­fer­ing from se­vere back pains, headaches and daily night­mares of the ac­ci­dent.

Although he is grate­ful for the $29.8 mil­lion with in­ter­est that the Supreme Court awarded him this month in dam­ages against his for­mer em­ployer, he said no amount of money can com­pen­sate him for his health and the hell he is con­tin­u­ally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

“This ac­ci­dent took ev­ery­thing from me. The things I want to do, I can’t do them any­more,” Wat­son shared with The Sun­day Gleaner in an in­ter­view last week.

“There is not a money you could ever pay me for me to come back to where I was be­fore. Health is so im­por­tant be­cause with­out health, you can­not ac­com­plish any­thing in life.”

He con­stantly suf­fers from headaches and se­vere back pains. And this is com­pounded by sleep­less nights and night­mares of the ac­ci­dent. In spite of it all, he is thank­ing God for spar­ing his life and for fi­nally al­low­ing him to get the com­pen­sa­tion.

ETER­NALLY GRATE­FUL

He is also eter­nally grate­ful for the sup­port of his wife and two daugh­ters.

The sur­vivor was em­ployed to Tank-Weld Ltd as a driver at the time of the ac­ci­dent. Tank-Weld ac­cepted li­a­bil­ity af­ter Wat­son filed a suit, and the mat­ter was set down for as­sess­ment of dam­ages.

Wat­son had al­ways had a fear of fly­ing and he made it known to all his co-work­ers, so when he boarded the air­craft at the Ken Jones Aero­drome in Port­land on Au­gust 8, 2008, he was very ner­vous.

On the day of the ac­ci­dent, he had driven a mo­tor ve­hi­cle to Port­land and handed it over to one of the man­agers at TankWeld. Ar­range­ment was made for him to travel back to Kingston on the air­plane. It was an 18-minute flight and Wat­son and the pi­lot were the only two per­sons aboard.

Min­utes into the flight, the plane crashed in the Blue Moun­tains, and the ter­ri­fied man said when the plane was go­ing down at “rocket speed”, a great deal of fear came over him.

“My heart was racing, I screamed and bawled out. All I could do was to brace my­self Min­utes into the flight, the plane crashed in the Blue Moun­tains.

for what I thought was the end of me,” he said.

In his graphic ac­count of the ac­ci­dent, Wat­son stated, “My head smashed into the dash­board, I be­came dis­ori­ented and I heard the pi­lot call­ing ‘Chris, Chris, come out, the plane is on fire’!”

In the haze of smoke, he pulled his seat belt and the pi­lot pulled him out.

He re­called, “I was not able to see from my left eye and blood was all over my face. The pi­lot’s feet were in­jured and they were a hor­rific sight. Where the plane crashed, the veg­e­ta­tion was so high, I could not even see the sky. Fear­ing the plane would ex­plode, we crawled about 30 feet away from the burn­ing air­craft, but crawl­ing took a long

time as we had to care­fully work our way through the thick veg­e­ta­tion. All that time I was feel­ing pain all over my body, I was bleed­ing from my mouth and nose and I felt bro­ken teeth in my mouth.”

Wat­son said he was bare­footed, his shirt was ripped apart, and “I was ter­ri­fied and crip­pled by the fear of death”.

One of his great­est con­cerns was what was go­ing to hap­pen to his wife, who was eight months and two weeks preg­nant, and his four-year-old daugh­ter.

“I be­gan to worry that I am go­ing to die, and what is go­ing to hap­pen to my fam­ily,” he re­mem­bered.

Wat­son and the pi­lot were stranded for two days be­fore they were res­cued by mem­bers of the Ja­maica De­fence Force. He re­counted that in or­der to sur­vive, he had to drink his own urine as he was so parched from ex­treme thirst.

“I be­came so thirsty that on two oc­ca­sions I had to drink my urine,” he shared, stat­ing that he would never like any­one to ex­pe­ri­ence what he went through.

Af­ter they were res­cued, Wat­son spent five days in hospi­tal.

He said he even­tu­ally went back to work and was given a desk job in the pur­chas­ing depart­ment, but the pain he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing were so se­vere that he could not con­tinue to work. He said af­ter that, the com­pany had not paid him any salary since De­cem­ber 2009, although “I was a very good worker and never had any prob­lem with work”.

Jus­tice David Batts, in as­sess­ing dam­ages, found that the in­juries af­fected Wat­son’s daily life­style and his abil­ity to work. Af­ter re­view­ing the med­i­cal ev­i­dence, the judge held that the in­juries in­cluded lum­bar strain, in­jured arm, knee, an­kle, face and head, as well as post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der that re­sulted in Wat­son feel­ing con­tin­u­ous pain.

Wat­son was awarded $25 mil­lion for pain and suf­fer­ing and loss of ameni­ties. The judge found that Wat­son would not be able to com­pete in the job mar­ket, whether self­em­ployed or as an em­ployee, and also awarded him $2 mil­lion for hand­i­cap on the labour mar­ket. He was awarded a fur­ther $2.8 mil­lion for fu­ture med­i­cal care.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing TankWeld had ar­gued that Wat­son was not en­ti­tled to any com­pen­sa­tion for loss of earn­ings be­cause he had aban­doned his job.

Jus­tice Batts ruled that there would be no award for loss of earn­ings, as there was no med­i­cal ev­i­dence to sup­port Wat­son’s as­ser­tion that he could not re­turn to work be­cause of his in­juries.

STAY­ING ALIVE

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