General — 28 March 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
Protruding plough on towhead causes traffic accident; 5 injured

A truck driver’s alleged indiscretion almost cost the lives of roughly 18 to 20 passengers who were on board a James Bus on the way to Belize City last night after a projecting heavy duty farm tractor’s rake ripped open the left side of the bus like a tin can.

Around 7:15 p.m. last night, near Mile 44 on the George Price Highway, a passenger bus belonging to James Bus Line from Punta Gorda was on its final route to Belize City when it was raked in the side by a protruding piece of a farming machine that was being carried on a towhead that was coming from the opposite direction.

Luckily, there were no casualties, but five people, including Oscar Cal, a resident of Colombia, Toledo, who was the driver of the James Bus, sustained injuries.

Cal and four of his passengers suffered various degrees of injuries and were rushed to the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan, while the others were taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City.

Although he has been driving for twenty-five years, Cal has been working with James Bus Line for five years, and today, from his hospital bed, he told the media what transpired, declaring that he has never had such a terrifying experience.

“I met a towhead, a big truck and that’s around Mile 44, almost to Cotton Tree, and that’s where the accident happened. It looks like this big truck was carrying some heavy duty equipment on the trailer. I cleared the front of the big truck very good and probably, like in the middle, I just heard a sudden bang in the front of the bus that I was driving”, Cal recounted.

According to police, the bus ended up approximately 30 to 40 feet in the bushes off the roadside, and although Cal was not badly hurt, he wished that the truck driver had followed the proper regulations and had secured a permit from the Transport Department and a police escort.

Cal stated, “I have an injury on my left leg, but it is not broken according to the X-ray. My left arm, my side and also my left forehead also has a wound. According to the doctors, I am all right and I feel the same way, except that my leg is really aching. I never thought this would happen, but you never know what can happen on the highways so you have to try to be precautious and be careful while on the highway. I think if that towhead had proper lights and reflectors, maybe it could have been avoided. But things do happen.”

Cal is scheduled to be released from the hospital today, while four commuters who were seated closer to the front of the bus were also injured, although the extent of their injuries have yet to be disclosed by police.

The 18-wheeler towhead’s driver, Freddie Valdez, 39, from Duck Run Two in Cayo, was reportedly transporting the tractor and plough to Spanish Lookout.

Valdez reported to Belmopan police that he was conscious of the hazards that the heavy machinery posed onto other oncoming vehicles, and therefore was on his way to Westar Hotel near Roaring Creek, intending to continue the journey the following morning.

According to Valdez, when he realized that a bus was coming in the opposite direction, he swerved off the highway, and claimed that the wheels of the roam plough were well off the shoulder of the highway.

Eyewitness reports, however, suggest that the plough extended as much as 4 feet from off the side of the trailer, which resulted in the traumatic experience for the bus’ commuters.

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