UPDATE: TRUCK TRAGEDY - Out-of-control unit crushes 7-y-o to death in freak accident at school
Gwenda Griffiths was sweeping the schoolyard on what she thought would have been just another ordinary Monday afternoon. But in a flash, she watched as Benjamin Bair, a seven-year-old student of Clan Carthy Primary, was mowed down by a garbage truck in a bizarre series of events that plunged the school into shock and grief.
Griffiths recalled as she saw the garbage truck that had come to retrieve refuse suddenly set into motion, killing young Benjamin and injuring others.
The truck, which The Gleaner understands is owned by a private contractor, overturned shortly after slamming into a taxi that was parked on the school grounds, pinning the boy down while he waited for a ride home. One of his hands was severed.
“Eventually, I see the truck take off in speed. I see the driver running down the truck, trying to pull the truck door,” said Griffiths, recounting details of the freak accident.
“Nobody was in there, and he couldn’t get in. Eventually, the truck ran in the taxi, and then overturned. Same time mi seh, ‘Jesus!’ and start cry. Mi just see pickney rush off. A pon di ground me reach. When mi see him, I cry, I cry. Jesus, God, I don’t think mi can sleep tonight.”
A man who gave his name as Shawn Givens told The Gleaner how he and others alerted the police and tried feverishly to get the boy from under the truck.
“Two tractors came to hoist the front and back of the truck, to see if we could take him or others out, but it was him alone,” said Givens.
“When me run come and look under the truck, mi see the youth and him never did a move. He lost a lot of blood and him face mash up. The children were looking to see if it was their friend, and they were just bawling.”
Jean Taylor, a friend and co-worker of Griffiths’ who also witnessed the incident, remembers Benjamin as a good and quiet kid.
Taylor, who told The Gleaner that a passenger inside the cab was fortunate to have survived, recalled seeing the taxi flip several times after being struck by the truck. It is alleged that another child had been injured.
“There was a lady in the taxi who came to pick up her daughter. The babyfather, who is a taxi man, came out to get the daughter. He left the babymother in the car,” she said.
“When the car stopped, she managed to push the door and come out. She had a chop and a big swelling on her leg, near her knee. I bawl out ‘Jesus!’”
Politicians, including Julian Robinson, member of parliament for South East St Andrew, were among scores of onlookers on the school compound and outside the perimeter fence.
Also in the crowd was Stephen McCubbin, councillor/caretaker for the Vineyard Town division, who said that there should be clear lines of accountability for quick verification of garbage contractors and their staff.
“The garbage truck is not from NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority). ... We need safeguards. In this case where there is an unfortunate situation, people shouldn’t be running around trying to find the driver. There must be a database and something outlining who is the man with the contract and who is driving the truck.
“I don’t know if the vehicle was parked properly, but I assume that if it was parked properly, it would not be in motion,” he said.
The police retrieved a knapsack, containing a passport and other items, believed to be owned by the driver.
The NSWMA issued a statement last night expressing condolences to the family and school community.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story had identified the dead child as Seymour Benjamin. His correct name is Benjamin Bair.