A 25-year-old mason remained at hospital under police guard last night after his vehicle ploughed into a group of limers at a bar in Caura yesterday morning, killing five people and leaving five others seriously injured. The victims have been identified as:
• Shiva Bharath, 27, of St Joseph
• Shayaz Khan, 25, of McKenzie Street, Frederick Settlement, Caroni
• Harrylal Mongroo, 31, an electrician, of Maharaj Street, Five Rivers
• Arun Narma, 22, of Caura Royal Road, El Dorado
• Christine Khan, 51, mother of Shayaz Khan, also of Frederick Settlement
Their deaths pushed the road fataility figure to 90, according to statistics from the Police Highway Patrol and Traffic Branch. The driver of the car, of Kandahar Village, Tacarigua, yesterday remained under police guard at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope. He reportedly received minor injuries from the crash.
The driver told investigators that around 5.30 am he was driving east along the Eastern Main Road in El Dorado in his Nissan Almera, when on reaching Caura Junction he was forced to swerve to avoid colliding with another car exiting Caura Royal Road. However, police sources said eyewitnesses' version of the accident differed from those provided by the driver.
The T&T Guardian was told that the driver's speech was slurred and the statements he initially made to the shocked onlookers after the crash were incoherent. Police said he claimed that after swerving to avoid hitting the other car, he rammed into two parked cars on the opposite side of the road, outside the popular Palance Bar, which is well known for its 24-hour opening hours.
Investigators said because of the speed at which the car was going, it slammed into customers who were seated inside the bar. Eyewitnesses told investigators the car went airborne for a couple of seconds before landing on top of Khan, Bharath and Mongroo who were seated around a table in the bar. The five injured patrons were rushed to hospital. Among those injured were:
• Anika Small
• Kelisha Alleyne
• Visham Sookraj, brother of the bar owner. Mongroo, one of the patrons killed.
Two other male patrons who also remained unidentified up to late yesterday were also taken to hospital. They were warded in a stable condition. In an interview at Mongroo's home, his sister Geeta said their family was devastated by their relative's death. An inconsolable Geeta said her brother was recently engaged and was due to get married later this year.
At Khan's home in Caroni, no one responded. Neighbours said his mother and brother, who he lived with, were in mourning and were busy making funeral arrangements. Immediately after the accident, the driver was arrested and taken to the Tunapuna Police Station where a breathalyser test was administered by Cpl Leo Simon.
The driver failed the test and was said to be more than double the legal alcohol limit. A source close to the investigation said yesterday officers were considering laying five charges of causing death by dangerous driving against the driver, in addition to a drunken driving charge.
Investigators are expected to consult with Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard later this week for advice on the charges, once the investigation is near completion. Senior Supt David Abraham, Supt Othaniel Williams, Inspector Jugmohan, Sgt Mark Maharaj were among the police detectives who visited the scene with fire officers from the Tunapuna Fire Station. Cpl Julien of the Tunapuna Police Station is continuing investigations.