The Christmas holidays were relatively quiet in terms of violence, but there was no shortage of vehicular violence on the nation’s highways. In the span of less than 16 hours between Christmas Eve night and Christmas afternoon, there were three accidents on the Philip Goldson and George Price Highways, claiming five lives and injuring another six.
The worst of the three took place on Christmas afternoon around 4:30 p.m. According to police they found a tragic scene between Miles 7 and 8, past the site of the old Williamson Sewing Factory, where a red four-door Isuzu pickup truck was found extensively damaged near a tree on the left of the highway when travelling toward Ladyville.
Inside were the motionless bodies of four young persons, between the ages of 17 and 23. They have been identified as 22 year old Ladyville Resident Hector Gongora, the driver; Henry Gabriel Reyes, 20; his front seat passenger; 17 year old Dulce Yanira Cobb, seated behind the driver; and next to her, 23 year old Shakir Shamir Monima. Information to us was that Gongora, visiting home from the University of Houston in Texas, for Christmas Holidays, went to pick up the trio from Belize City in his father’s Isuzu D-Max pickup and they were returning to his family’s home in Lake Gardens, Ladyville, when tragedy struck. But what could have caused the truck to take that fatal flip and claim four lives? Even the police appear baffled and cautious. Officer in charge of Belize Rural Police ASP Chris Noble told us when we asked about whether weather or the notorious road conditions played a role that it was simply too early to say.
“Whether or not we look at Mr. Gongora losing control, we are looking at all factors. There may be some factors that we have overlooked, but we are still looking into. To say the road conditions may have played a role, that is for our investigation to continue to look into”.
We were speaking with ASP Noble after the conclusion of four post-mortem examinations at the KHMH on Boxing Day afternoon, Thursday. Those results are as follows. Hector Gongora died of severe brain injury due to commuted facial and skull fractures; Reyes died from traumatic shock syndrome due to chest and abdominal injuries; Cobb died of avulsion of head and neck, meaning that the tendons were ripped from the adjacent bone structure; and Shakir Shamir Monima died from severe head and liver injuries, all due to the road traffic accident. While family members we approached were too distraught to speak with us, we understand that none of the youths were drinking that day. The Gongora family previously lost another young son at eighteen years old a few years ago. Funerals for Gongora, Monima and Cobb took place on Saturday at Divine Mercy Church in Belize City. And while he praised the efforts of the rescue team from the Philip Goldson International Airport and the Belize Defence Force that arrived on the scene almost immediately, ASP Noble said that there was an important lesson for all Belizeans in Wednesday’s tragedy.
ASP Chris Noble: “My appeal would be, simply be careful on the road; drive safely. In times of festivities, there are many factors. The distraction of persons using the road; the use of beverage in your system that may cause problems and we need top know our limits. We look also at the road conditions. That area in regards to rain, all roads in this country, but that does not mean that because a part of it was smooth and you should speed. If you do not know, (and that may be a factor in this case) take your time; be careful. The life you save might be your own and I am taking that of from somebody’s commercial, but it is a known fact. That highway has been deteriorated and we cannot say otherwise than be careful. It can’t be repaired; the rains are here”.
This is, we are told, the twelfth accident in the area of Ladyville to Belize City along the highway in the last month, with the count for fatalities up to seven.