Angry residents of Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, violently clashed with police yesterday morning after six of their neighbours, among them a mother and her two young daughters, were knocked down by a speeding car driven by a police officer.
The massive protest action began shortly after 9.30 am, minutes after 28-year-old Hadeey Paul and her daughters–Ruthie, eight, and Shakira, seven–were killed while attempting to cross the Beetham Highway near Pioneer Drive, where they lived.
The three other victims of the crash were identified as Amanda Lalla, 26, Abigail Assing and Ryan Dahl, also of Pioneer Drive. They remained warded at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital in a critical condition up to late yesterday.
A team of officers from the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB) was summoned to the scene of the protest, as it quickly escalated.The officers, armed with riot gear, were forced to fire several rounds of non-lethal rubber bullets in an attempt to control the rowdy protesters. Some of the protesters were injured in the confrontation. Several rounds of live ammunition were also discharged into the air to disperse the residents who attempted several times to block traffic on the highway with debris.
Car accident at Sea Lots
According to police reports, around 9 am, the group was attempting to cross the highway from north to south to return to their homes after shopping at the Central Market.Police said while walking across the westbound lane, an off-duty policeman driving of a Toyota Corolla lost control and slammed into them. Some of the victims were pitched several feet into the air and fell on the roadway, while some were crushed under the tyres of the car.Paul and her daughters were pronounced dead on the scene by a district medical officer.
The off-duty officer assigned to the Port-of-Spain Division was also taken to hospital by his colleagues. He is said to have sustained serious injuries and was also being treated up to late yesterday. The victims' relatives and friends told investigators they feared that the investigation will be a "cover-up" as a policeman was involved. But senior police sources dismissed these claims yesterday afternoon assuring that a thorough investigation would be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the accident.
Some residents also claimed the policeman was intoxicated at the time of the accident and had a bottle of Johnnie Walker in his car.Up to late yesterday, traffic heading into and out of Port-of-Spain had to be diverted to the Eastern Main Road as scores of angry residents mounted their protest action at the scene of the accident.It could not be confirmed, up to late yesterday, whether the officer was made to submit to a breathalyser test before he was taken to hospital for treatment.
Police sources said considering the damage caused in the accident, the officer was more than likely driving well over speed limit of 80 km per hour.The road fatality toll for the year now stands at 29. According to statistics released by the Police Service's Crime and Problem Analysis Branch, earlier this year, there were 188 road fatalities in 2012.