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Sea Lots protest 3 road deaths again (with CNC3 video)
Reporting by Geisha Kowlessar, Derek Achong and Camille Clarke
Pandemonium broke out again yesterday morning at Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain as residents continued protest action demanding justice for the deaths of 28-year-old Haydee Paul and her daughters—Ruthie, eight, and Shakira, seven—who were knocked down and killed on the Beetham Highway near Pioneer Drive on Sunday.
The three other victims of the crash — Amanda Lalla, 26, Abigail Assing and Ryan Dahl — also of Pioneer Drive, remained warded at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital at the Intensive Care Unit up to late yesterday.
The residents are claiming the off-duty policeman who knocked down Paul and her two daughters was drunk at the time of the accident. Senior officers said yesterday a breathalyser test was administered to the officer and blood samples taken from him after the accident. The policeman is attached to the Transport and Telecom Branch. Investigating officers said he would be questioned when discharged from hospital.
They said his car would remain impounded at the police station to be examined by a team of licensing officers. During their protest action on Sunday and yesterday, Sea Lots residents claimed the officer was intoxicated and that a bottle of alcohol was removed from his vehicle by police officers who first responded to the scene.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson confirmed yesterday that the driver of the car is a police officer. From about 5 am yesterday angry residents took to the Beetham Highway near Pioneer Drive and again blocked the roadway with burning debris.
The police were forced to divert traffic to Broadway, Abattoir Road and South Quay, Port-of-Spain. It caused a massive traffic gridlock in parts of east and west Trinidad. Members of the Defence Force Infantry Battalion in riot gear, Guard and Emergency Branch, Inter Agency Task Force, firefighters, a national security helicopter were called out to contain the rowdy crowd.
Richardson said: “The residents were throwing debris on the road and we responded and we cleared the road. The minister (Jack Warner) came at 1.15 pm and spoke with the residents and they came to a consensus and we will talk again,” he said. He added the residents agreed to hold up on further protest action.
Residents insisted yesterday the victims were not crossing the highway but were hit while on the pavement. In an interview at the hospital yesterday, Assing said she was trying to cross when she was hit by the car. Her neck was in a brace and her right arm was bandaged.
“I nearly made it to the sidewalk when I got hit,” she said. “All I know is when I regained consciousness I turned around and saw the others in the middle of the road and I was in the middle of the centre lane. I am in a lot of pain.”
Assing said she managed to lift herself up on the sidewal, but the driver of the car did not even try to help. Miguel Hepburn, who said he had been in a relationship with Paul for the past two years, said he was shocked over the deaths.
“We does be drinking but we don’t drive no car. They (police) pull people over for a breathalyser. And is six people he bounce down.”
Richardson commends cops
In an interview last night Richardson said he was pleased with the police response to Sea Lots on Sunday and yesterday. He said: “They (officers) were very professional in handling the matter this morning and Sunday. We had dialogue with them to get them to understand our position.
“I expressed our (the police) grief and sorrow to them but at the same breath we told them the police have a duty to the nation to keep the highways and roads free. “We (police) spoke to the residents and we got it cleared. The police did a good job and I am proud of the officers for how they handled the situation in a professional manner.”
What Warner told residents: “I have spoken to Minister of Works Emanuel George and he has assured me that his technical officers shall look into the possibility for a crossover that you all have asked for. “I am here to offer condolence. Nothing we can do today can bring back the lives of those lost. I am sharing in your grief as everyone else.” Warner also promised the residents to return to the area to hold further discussion in regard to the construction of the walkover.
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