Headline — 21 December 2016 — by Albert J. Ciego
3 youths dead after horrific RTA

YO CREEK, Orange Walk District, Mon. Dec. 19, 2016–Three young men lost their lives and one other person was critically injured in a tragic road traffic accident which happened on the Yo Creek Road, near Orange Walk Town, this weekend.

According to police, the collision occurred near Cuello’s Distillery at about 9:00 Saturday night, when a Ford F-150 pickup collided with a Tillett passenger bus, resulting in extensive damage to both vehicles. The impact of the collision tore apart the engine and transmission from the passenger bus and crushed the pickup with the passengers inside, causing them to die on the spot from massive head and body injuries.

The young men were removed from the mangled pickup by a team from the Orange Walk Fire Service with the “Jaws of Life” cutter.

The accident victims, all of whom lived in Yo Creek Village in the Orange Walk District, are Minor Hernandez, 22, an electrician of Yo Creek, Jason Gongora, 22, and Giovanni Gongora, 26, a construction worker.

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George Mejia, the only bus passenger who was injured, has since been transferred to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), where he has been admitted to ward in a critical condition.

The driver of the bus, Airon Dominguez, 42, of San Felipe, Orange Walk, suffered minor injuries. He was taken to the Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk, treated and later released.

The police’s initial investigation revealed that the three relatives were travelling to Orange Walk Town from Yo Creek, while the bus was travelling in the opposite direction, when the driver of the F-150 pickup, who has not yet been identified, lost control of the vehicle and collided with the Tillett bus. Police have still not confirmed what exactly caused the accident.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Jose Mendez, Deputy Commander of Orange Walk Police, told us in a press brief held this morning at the Orange Walk Police Station that there are many unknowns. Mendez said that they are not yet sure which of the cousins was driving the pickup, because of the state in which it was found.

Police have submitted blood samples to the Forensic Lab for toxicology screening, and specifically to see if alcohol consumption contributed to the accident. The police believe that speeding was a factor in the massive and deadly collision.

ASP Mendez said that when they arrived on the scene, they saw the three men trapped inside the badly wrecked pickup, all dead. After being removed by personnel from the Orange Walk Fire Service, the men were taken to the Northern Regional Hospital, where they were declared dead on arrival.

Mendez urges drivers to adhere to the speed limit and not to speed on the road. He said that the road has recently been paved, and it now has all necessary markings and signs, to improve road safety.

The officer said that they have begun their Christmas public safety campaign, and they have put extra patrols on the road to monitor speeding on the highways. He calls on drivers to follow good driving habits, exhibit common courtesy, and to drive with due care and attention.

The Deputy Commander said that they are awaiting the autopsy results, as well as the toxicology report needed for the investigation.

Rodolfo Hernandez, the father of Minor Hernandez, told us this morning in an interview near the Orange Walk Police Station, that on Saturday night, he was at a wedding when at about 9:30 p.m., his phone began to vibrate. He paid no attention to it, because he was busy, but his phone kept buzzing. He saw missed calls from Brother Parko, a fellow member of his church, as well as his daughter. When he called Brother Parko to see what was happening, he was informed that there had been a terrible road collision involving his son. At the time, he did not know that his son had died.

Hernandez said that he immediately travelled from Santa Clara to Yo Creek and went to the scene, but the victims had already been taken to the Northern Regional Hospital. He then went to the hospital to see his son, but the security guard at the hospital denied him entry to the area where the bodies had been taken, advising that the area was closed. After waiting about 3 hours, he was told that his son was dead but he still did not get to see the body. The grieving dad told us that he will see his son for the first time since the accident at the time of the autopsy, scheduled for 1:00 this afternoon.

He said that Minor was well known and loved by villagers. The grieving father said that the three young men were close and they grew up together. He said that he had warned his son about drinking, and that alcohol is harmful.

Minor Hernandez was employed at the E & G Garcia Electrical Company of Yo Creek.

Bibiano Gongora, the dad of Giovanni Gongora, told us that on Saturday night, he was at home, when police went to his house and told him that his son had been involved in a road traffic collision. He immediately went to the Northern Regional Hospital, where he saw his son’s body.

Giovanni is survived by two brothers. His father told us that he loved his son and also warned him about drinking alcohol.

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