Come next September, two new three-year scholarships will be offered at the University of the West Indies in memory of 11 people who lost their lives in road accidents in North Windward. Making the announcement on Sunday, October 16, Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves said he will do all he can to memorialise the lives of the five men from Clare Valley who died in an accident on September 11, and seven children from North Windward who died in an accident at Rock Gutter in 2015. Each scholarship is valued at $180,000 for the three-year period and will cover tuition and living expenses.
The Clare Valley five are Khalil Robin, Govanni Barker, Kenroy Phillips, Elvis Logie Harold and Ishmael Dorrel Bruce.
All five died when the passenger van in which they were traveling crashed on September 11 in Boney River, Old Sandy Bay.
Their joint funerals were held on Sunday at the Clare Valley Playing Field.
The Rock Gutter seven were Rochelle Ashton 18, Jamalie Edwards 14, Jamal Edwards 12, Glenroy Michael 12, and Anique Alexander 11, Simonique Ballantine and Chantacia Stay. The seven students died when the passenger van in which they were traveling plunged off the road way in an area known as a Rock Gutter into the Atlantic Ocean on January 12, 2015.
Speaking during the joint funeral service for the five Clare Valley men on Sunday, the Prime Minister said their lives would not be forgotten.
“I announce today that as of September next year, the next academic year at The University of the West Indies, two scholarships will be offered, three year scholarships at the University. One in memory of the Rock Gutter seven and one in memory of the Clare Valley five,” Gonsalves said.
He said the five men will also be memorialised in some other way but did not give further details.
The Prime Minister called on mourners and residents of the community to not forget the families left behind by the sudden, tragic death of the men.
He recalled having conversations with several family members and held up a piece of paper with names written on it, saying he thinks of the families and their grief every day.
“We have to keep in touch and stay in touch to hold all of us. The words are important to convey messages but the love of our hearts and our minds must come forward for the living, those who depended on these young men,” Gonsalves said.
He said he will be looking into providing assistance for the relatives and children of the deceased.
The Prime Minister also read several scripture verses offering comfort to the families. Gonsalves later told SEARCHLIGHT that any Vincentian who qualifies for the scholarships will be able to benefit from them. He said the Government would also provide assistance to the grieving families. Asked to confirm the cost of the State-funded joint service Gonsalves said he did not immediately have the information available but would try to provide it at some other time.
Gonsalves left the service around 2:30 p.m and took time when he was leaving to take photos with several people who approached him.
SEARCHLIGHT spoke to several persons who attended the funeral who praised the Prime Minister for his promises to support the families of the accident victims.
Angus Dabreo said the funeral service was well planned and executed. He praised Gonsalves for his scholarship initiative and said he has no doubt the promises made to relatives will materialise.
“As we know, the Prime Minister is all about that and he is always keeping his promises so book it and sure that will happen,” he said.
Two female attendees, Corletha and Marianne were also glad to hear Gonsalves’ assurances to the family.
“It’s a good thing, a good promise, mind them until them dead,” Corletha said.
“I hope he keep it up,” Marianne chimed in.
Sion Hill resident, Keieran Fergus described the service as one of the best he has ever attended.
Fergus said he had been good friends with several of the victims.
“I like how they organize everything and everything was put together properly, one of the best funeral I go to so far, it was really well put together,” Fergus said.
As for the Prime Minister’s promise to the relatives, Fergus said once Gonsalves keeps his word, the grieving families will benefit.
“If he stick up to his word is a good thing, everybody would like to get a little help because the country real hard right now, is a good statement he make,” Fergus said.