Two aunts who had left a Forest Home church for a brief moment to take their baby nephew home to get a bottle of formula were met with tragedy on their return, after Hon. Marcial Mes, Toledo West area representative and Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development, reportedly lost control of his official vehicle and slammed violently into the toddler and one of the two aunts, seriously injuring both. Relatives and area residents suspect that the Minister was driving under the influence of alcohol, but last night Mes refused to allow police to test him.
What has dismayed and disappointed the family is that the Minister was allegedly drinking and driving, and did not stop to help the fallen children. Instead, he drove a few yards away while two of his passengers emptied beer pints from the vehicle; then drove to the Punta Gorda police station, relatives said. One relative pointed out that the law requires that the vehicle should not have moved from the spot until the police arrived on the scene of the accident. (Forest Home is about three and half miles away from Punta Gorda Town.)
Around 6:00 on Sunday evening the loud bang summoned a crowd of about 25 people to the scene, including church members who were attending service at Forest Home Methodist Church, as well as people from the community. They stood along the roadside, some of them wailing with worry that the two children had lost their lives.
Without an ambulance on the scene, friends and relatives helped to transport the baby and the girl, whom they had placed on a wooden plank in the absence of a stretcher, to the Punta Gorda hospital.
At about 9:00 that night the two victims, Denver Gomez, Jr., 2, and Samantha Romero, 15, were flown out via helicopter to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), Belize City, in the company of Samantha’s eldest sister, Raquel, 25. Although she was badly shaken up by the accident, she has made up her mind that she had to be strong for the family.
Raquel told us that about an hour after they arrived at the KHMH, the baby regained consciousness and he spoke for the first time at 3:00 this morning, when he complained of pain and discomfort from injuries, and the tube and needles which medics had connected to his tiny body.
At press time this evening Baby Denver is again unconscious and his critically ill aunt is reportedly delirious in the KHMH.
Samantha has minor head injuries and her left hand is broken in two places. One foot is broken and the other has bruises and a huge gash, relatives said.
Last night doctors did a CT-Scan at the KHMH. They found that the baby had two fractures on his skull. At about 12 o’clock today the baby was sent over to the Belize Medical Associates to do an ultrasound on his stomach. The ultrasound showed no damage in that area, Raquel said.
Karl Williams, a relative, said that he was inside the Forest Home Methodist Church when he heard a loud bang. Mes’ vehicle, a Nissan Patrol with Government of Belize blue license plates, had slammed into a Mafredi bus which had transported people to church that Sunday.
Williams said that he saw the vehicle move and come back, but they should not have moved the vehicle; they should have waited until the police came, he insisted.
Relatives who saw the accident claim the Minister was speeding.
Today police reported that Marcial Mes, 57, had been charged with driving without due care and attention; two counts of negligent harm, and failure to provide specimen for testing. Police said nothing of the alleged failure of Mes to stop and help the children.
We understand that the government vehicle was impounded at the police station, but Mes was released on bail. A Punta Gorda Magistrate’s Court official told us that he wasn’t scheduled to appear in court today.
The police release added that, “depending on the outcome of medical treatment, charges are subject to upgrade.”
Relatives told us today that Mes, a former educator as well as a career politician, had not personally contacted the family. This evening his children were at the KHMH rendering support to the family of the two victims, and they have offered to help with the medical expenses. We understand that the baby and his aunt are also being moved to a private ward.
The aunt Carolyn said that she was along with Samantha and Denver, but had dropped behind them to wait for her purse which she had forgotten home. At the time of the accident she was only a few feet away from them.
Raquel was nearby as well, walking her two children to the church, when she saw the entire thing unfold.
She said that she saw the vehicle swerving from right to left on the road. It knocked down Denver and Samantha and also slammed into the bus that they were walking beside, she added.
Raquel said she ran when she heard the bang and found the baby underneath the bus. She immediately picked him up. Meanwhile, her sister was about seven feet away and also obviously injured. Like the baby, she was not moving, and so Raquel screamed out for help.
She said that when Mes tried to leave the scene, she picked up a rock and stoned his vehicle, and that’s when he stopped. Then, she said, two passengers exited the vehicle and threw out approximately 8 beer bottles. Carolyn also reported that she saw the passengers throw beer bottles from the vehicle.
Denver, Jr., is the only child of Keniesha Romero, who had lost her baby’s father in August 2006, when he drowned. She was reportedly at the store at the time of the accident on Sunday night.
A community leader in Punta Gorda told us that when the Southern Highway was upgraded, money was given to build the road to international standards, which would mean that it should have had proper sidewalks for the children, but there are none.
Raquel said that the bus that Mes collided with was parked off the road and her sister and nephew were walking along the side of the bus, towards the rear, when they were hit.