Highlights — 21 March 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
Student, 8, knocked down in Ladyville

Eyewitnesses say the little girl, crossing the highway to school, was dragged for some distance in front of her school before being rescued by her father

Her school’s principal says that traffic regulations in the area need to be enforced

Another unfortunate traffic accident which occurred early yesterday morning in Ladyville underscores the importance of safety measures for schoolchildren who exit buses to get to school, especially during peak hours when drivers are making their way to the Old Capital, mainly for work.

The family of an 8-year old female student of Our Lady of the Way RC School in Ladyville is presently reeling with disbelief and anger after she was knocked down right in front of her school compound as she made her way to school this morning.

Around 7:30 a.m., Kyeisha Joseph, who is a resident of Double Head Cabbage in rural Belize, reportedly exited her school bus and was about to cross the Philip Goldson Highway to make it to classes when she was hit by an SUV which was headed towards Belize City.

The standard 2 student suffered injuries which have left her in a critical condition and clinging to life at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH).

ASP Chris Noble, Officer in Charge of the Belize Rural Police Formation, confirmed the incident today and said that their understanding is that the child was hit by a vehicle which was traveling in the same direction as the bus, and that they are looking into what were the circumstances that led to the incident.

Noble said that what they do know is that a high number of incidences involve individuals who are trying to make it through rush hour traffic – which is normally backed-up – to get to work at that time of the morning, and they have been able to establish that the child had been trying to cross the highway to get to school when she was knocked down.

While he appealed for drivers to be careful when approaching school zones, especially on the highways, Noble suggested that the areas where students traverse the roadway need to be upgraded to acceptable levels so as to reduce the risks that schoolchildren in that area are exposed to, not only because the Ladyville RC School is one of the largest schools in the area, but also due to the fact that there is a high school in very close proximity.

Joseph’s principal, Carol Young, told the media that the small child was simply peeking from the edge of the bus to see what was coming when she was hit.

Young said, “We were told that the child suffered a broken collarbone, a broken nose; her brain is swollen because she suffered a fractured skull, and she was bleeding through her nose, so she is in a critical condition.”

Eyewitnesses had mentioned to us that after the young girl was knocked down, she was dragged by the vehicle for a couple feet before her father – who was the driver of the bus – came to her aid.

Principal Young emphasized that they have reached out to the authorities for years, trying to find a way to regulate the traffic in the area, but nothing has been done.

Today, she made another plea and said, “The Ministry of Education should try to do something about it as soon as possible, because we are asking for a speed ramp for several years now. This is a big school and we have over 600 kids. We were asking them to please put one because our children ride the regular buses [and] we have a lot of kids who come all the way from Burrell Boom and some of them come from as far as Bermudian Landing. We know that we have a problem with children crossing the street, [that’s why] we had asked [them] to put a pedestrian ramp, but so far nothing has been done.”

According to Young, personnel from the Ministry of Works had visited the school several years ago when the school management had initially proposed that a pedestrian ramp be put in front of the school, but they were advised by the engineers that such ramps tend to break up the highway.

Thereafter, she said that a group of parents arranged to place a large rope across the road to slow down the traffic, but it was later removed by unknown persons and ever since, there has been a problem whenever children need to cross the road.

We understand that the school wardens normally escort the students to the other side of the road to get to school, but the wardens had not yet arrived at the school when the incident took place.

The principal indicated that Kyeisha’s friends, classmates and teachers are all traumatized by her misfortune, especially the ones who witnessed the accident.

According to Young, something also needs to be done about drivers who mindlessly rush to work every morning on our highways.

“Even one of the school’s bus drivers had built us a stop sign that we had placed in front of the school, but the drivers still did not pay any mind to that sign and still race in the morning, because those are the peak hours when they are trying to get to work, so it puts us in an uncomfortable position, and we try our best to escort the children across the road when we come on the school bus in the mornings, because many of the drivers act as if they don’t care [about the interests of others].”

ASP Noble verified that the female driver of the vehicle which hit Joseph has been served with a Notice of Intended Prosecution.

Another young child – 13-year-old Earl Flores, Jr., from Buttercup in the Belize River Valley area – was also knocked down by a hit-and-run driver three weeks ago, on February 23, this time while riding to a relative’s house on the Burrell Boom Road.

Flores died 2 weeks later while receiving treatment, due to a massive swelling of his brain, which doctors had detected hours before his death.

When we asked for an update on the progress of the investigations into that incident, ASP Noble told us today that investigators are still currently working to solve the case.

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