It did nothing to help my paranoia about other people driving me, particularly in party-related circumstances, to wake up on Monday morning to news of yet another serious vehicular accident, this time in St. Vincent. I was there over the weekend on business, and on my last night a new acquaintance invited me out. I was curious about a Vincie night out—for all of five minutes. I decided instead to soak in as much relaxation as I could before heading back to hectic reality, and after conducting one last interview I set about replying to e-mails. When I later picked up my phone, I saw several missed calls and messages from my new acquaintance: he and a female friend had actually turned up in my hotel lobby ready to show me a good time. Alas his several attempts at calling me had fallen on deaf ears.
Not thinking much of it, I watched some TV and went to bed anticipating his call in the morning for an explanation. Instead I awoke to the shocking news that he had been in a car crash on his way back to his hotel. I stared in disbelief at the carrier of the bad news. She explained that around 4 a.m., the car carrying him and a friend of a friend had shot off a cliff. Somehow the car suffered only slight damage. Its driver was not so lucky. He died at the scene of the accident.
When finally I picked my jaw up from the floor, I asked how his passenger had fared. It was as if I'd put a match to a dynamite fuse. The woman seemed to explode. Obviously anger had been welling up in her chest for a long time. Her words came out in floods. I gathered the surviving victim had been hospitalized, after flagging down several vehicles that did not stop, knocking on doors and finally ending up at a police station where the barely conscious man—a foreigner— was interrogated for five hours straight.
“He could have died,” said my agitated source. “He may have looked all right on the outside, but those officers had no idea what may have been going on inside him; internal bleeding, for one.”
I looked back at his own messages to me, the missed calls. The selfish thought occurred to me: What if I'd decided to tag along with him and his friend? A sense of sadness and, yes, a strange feeling of loss overwhelmed me.
Before I left St. Vincent the word was intoxication and exhaustion had contributed to the accident. By all accounts he was a well-loved artist.
On the same day in Saint Lucia, Sunday, the well-loved Winston Trim had suffered a fatal accident at Escap. His motocycle had run into a transit van around 4.25 a.m. The two incidents drove home to me in the worst way how easy it is to be here one minute and gone the next; how much we take precious life for granted.
I wondered whether the deaths could have been prevented. How many times had the issue come up about erecting protective barriers along our more dangerous roads? How many times had Vincentians made similar appeals to the authorities? To no avail. How many times had motorcycle advocacy clubs stood up in solidarity, in an effort to get drivers to respect motorcyclists on our roadways? How many times had riders and drivers been reminded that driving and drinking amount to a deadly mix? How many sudden deaths will it take before motorists learn to appreciate life enough to take all the necessary precautions? If the authorities won't do what is needed to ensure road safety, if enough of us don't demand better roads, then we at least can better appreciate life: our own and that of others!