Leader of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace stressed on Tuesday that the Rock Gutter tragedy of a year ago raised a number of issues and questions, none of which has, to his knowledge, been rectified or addressed.
On January 12, 2015, a school bus taking students from Fancy crashed into the sea in an area known as Rock Gutter, killing seven students, two of whom were swept away by raging seas and whose bodies have not been found.
A memorial service, held at the Fancy Playing Field last Tuesday, sought to remember the fallen students.
The Opposition Leader used his time at the podium not only to offer words of encouragement to the affected families, but to ask a number of questions he stressed needed to be answered.
Stressing that one year had passed “since the people of Fancy and the nation suffered unbelievable grief,” Eustace stressed that issues that could have helped prevent the accident, and procedures that could have helped during the tragedy have still not been implemented or looked at.
“Today, a year later, school and other aspects of life have returned to normal, but in many homes there is still an empty seat at the table and the grief continues.
“How have the lives of the people of Fancy changed and indeed the lives of our country as whole?” questioned Eustace.
He further asked, “Has the tragedy brought us nearer to our God? What have we done in this regard? Has the tragedy taught us more to be our brother’s keeper? Have we reviewed our rescue operations, as many have called for? Have we reviewed our Coastguard to rescue? Is there need as some have said, not only for this type of tragedy, is there need for a rescue helicopter?
“Have we reviewed or designed training programmes for the Coastguard personnel since there were aspects that were missing at the time? Are there any aspects of our insurance laws that should be reviewed and has that process began? Should our road transport system be reviewed and overhauled, as it relates to safety?
“Are our children any safer on the road today as compared to one year ago? Is Rock Gutter safer? Is there need for additional school programmes facilitated by the Traffic Department of our Police Force?”
Eustace said that in his opinion, “these are questions that need answers”.
He said that some work may already be in progress that he is not aware of, “but these questions need to be answered as we look towards the future.”
Eustace noted that as we go about our day-to-day affairs, we may not think about some of the questions he posed, but a lot of them are now necessary because of the Rock Gutter incident.
“None of us may wish to have another Rock Gutter…we must avoid another Rock Gutter. Now is the time to undertake these reviews, now that our population is alerted to the need and the concern that has arisen because of the Rock Gutter disaster,” said Eustace.
“This list of questions is not exhausting; it is but a list; but today I am asking all of us to take another look in the interest of the safety of our people and let us make the necessary improvements. I am confident that we have the ability and the competence right here in St Vincent and the Grenadines to address these and many other similar questions,” noted the Opposition Leader.
Further addressing the gathering, Eustace commented, “I say to the families, I know that our God is with you; I know that you still have pain; but he will help you bear that pain, as he has been doing for the past year.”
A few persons in the audience opined that while they thought that the questions raised by the Opposition Leader were pertinent, they did not think it was appropriate for those questions to be asked at a memorial service being held to remember and honour the seven students who lost their lives.(LC)