Inquiry into Friendship ‘smash-up’ completed

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Dead: Denise Josiah and her husband, Herbert Josiah in happier times

…use of sirens by police, emergency vehicles highlighted

THE inquiry into the deadly Friendship accident, which was ordered by President David Granger, has been completed, according to police sources.
The Board of Inquiry, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paul Williams and supported by Senior Superintendents Calvin Brutus and Linden Isles, was established to investigate the circumstances surrounding the horrific October 15, 2019 accident on the East Bank Demerara (EBD) corridor in the vicinity of Friendship. Importantly, the board, through the acting Commissioner of Police, Nigel Hoppie, is expected to propose a menu of recommendations that would prevent road accidents.

Dead: Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant, Leon Tucker

Surveillance footage nearby captured motorcar PPP 515 moving at a moderate pace when a police vehicle with flashing lights, slammed ‘head-on’ into it. On the point of impact, the police vehicle spun several times before coming to a halt in a nearby drain. Five persons – Ronel Barker, Policeman; Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Sergeant, Leon Tucker; Lovern Stoby, a special constable attached to the Guyana Police Force; and Herbert Josiah and his wife Denise Josiah – were killed in the accident while two persons survived. Barker was the driver of the police vehicle at the time of the accident while Tucker was driving the private car in the company of his aunt, Stoby and the Josiah’s. The accident occurred at around 05:30hrs on October 15.

While it is unclear if the board’s report was handed over to President Granger, the Guyana Chronicle understands that the use of sirens by police and other emergency vehicles form a major part of the report. Police sources indicated that the report was completed and handed over to the acting Commissioner of Police.

President Granger had ordered an investigation into the accident hours after it had occurred. “We will ensure that, if there was any error, any mistake, any wrongdoing… that there will be no further event like this in the history of the Police Force or the Guyana Defence Force,” the President had assured in an address to the nation.

President Granger further assured the nation that whatever the cause of the accident, the Government of Guyana, the administration of the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force, the Cabinet and the National Security Committee will take every step to ensure that the roads are used safely by all members of the security forces.

Dead: Special Constable Lovern Stoby

He had said steps will also be taken to ensure that regulations, Standing Operating Procedures, inspections and the careful selection and training of drivers, are measures which are put in place so as to prevent a recurrence. “The government and the security forces will ensure that the findings and recommendations of this Commission of Inquiry are fully and rigorously implemented,” the President further assured the nation.

Last Saturday, residents of Friendship signed a petition to increase road safety in the area. Denise Murray, a resident Friendship, is among the signatories to the petition titled ‘Never Again.’ Murray, while applauding President Granger for establishing a Board of Inquiry (BoI) into the deadly accident, said through the petition, residents are hoping to increase road safety in the area. “We are very sad at the continued accident tragedies on the East Bank road and especially in Friendship. The benefits to the families of the deceased and a commission of inquiry are all important but will it stop the next horrendous accident? The answer is NO. We have signed the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ petition. We want changes on the roads in Friendship and on the East Bank,” Murray said in a statement.

Dead: Policeman Ronel Barker

Hoping to secure more than 100 signatures, she said the petition will be submitted to the Ministry of the Presidency, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.

According to Murray, urgent actions are needed. She pointed out that only two ‘MPH’ signs are located in Friendship when eight are needed. The residents are also petitioning the government to lower the speed limit in the area to 40-50mph from 80mph.

Through the petition, they are also calling for increased police presence along the East Bank Demerara corridor on a daily basis. “(There is) no police outpost between Grove and Timehri…Police outposts needed at mid-point. No jagged or rubberised strips across road in Friendship (as done on the West Demerara road to Parika)…four strips needed in Friendship,” Murray said.