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Trelawny MC disputes responsibility in tragic death of senior citizen who fell into trench

Published:Saturday | April 13, 2024 | 12:10 AMRochelle Clayton/Staff Reporter
The trench cutting off direct access to the roadway that was dug in front of Coral Brissett’s house in Jackson Town, Trelawny.
The trench cutting off direct access to the roadway that was dug in front of Coral Brissett’s house in Jackson Town, Trelawny.
Coral Brissett in happier times.
Coral Brissett in happier times.


The Trelawny Municipal Corporation is distancing itself from the circumstances leading to the tragic death of 72-year-old Coral Brissett, who was hospitalised for two weeks after falling into a ditch at his gate.

Brissett, a returning resident, died on Thursday while receiving treatment at the Cornwall Regional Hospital. He is said to have sustained a fractured neck and was left paralysed after the freak accident in Jackson Town, Trelawny, earlier in March.

According to the deceased man’s daughter, Maxine, the trench that claimed her father’s life was recently dug deeper by representatives of the local authority.

However, Falmouth Mayor Collen Gager disputed the claim.

Speaking with The Gleaner on Friday afternoon, Gager said that the trench, which he said is an earth drain, was installed along that roadway some decades ago. He pointed out that the trench appears to have been dug deeper as it was recently cleaned.

The mayor said Brissett was warned against utilising his makeshift entrance alongside the earth drain and that representatives from the National Works Agency (NWA), too, advised against this action.

“That wasn’t the original road. That road is being used as a sort of convenience, or what we would call a shortcut. When we went out there, we saw material that was being used as a bridge and that was taken away,” Gager claimed.

“It was pointed out to him that it wasn’t safe,” he added.

Winston Palmer, CEO of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation, on Friday also maintained that the local authority is not responsible for the man’s injuries and subsequent death.

Palmer pointed out that the “proper entrance” to Brissett’s home is located on an adjoining parochial road.

“The area in question is not somewhere that would be used to access your home. There is a parochial road where the proper entrance to the homes along that stretch can get persons into their homes without trying to cross that earth drain,” he said.

Earlier this week, Maxine told The Gleaner that her father had voiced major concerns over the location of the trench.

She said that the elderly man had also made multiple trips to the municipal corporation to have it addressed, but Palmer said that he is unaware of any correspondence with Brissett.

“I am not aware of that, but why would we be negotiating something like that? I have never been aware of that, and I have worked here since 2012. The corporation would not go into an arrangement like that. That seems rather strange,” Palmer said.

In the meantime, Palmer said that the family’s claim that the local authority removed a grille that was being used as a bridge by the elderly man is true.

However, while pointing to the importance of having proper drainage systems across the parish, Palmer stated that the municipal corporation, along with NWA, could not allow Brissett to continue this unsafe practice.

“That earth drain is very important in the sense that it prevents the flooding of the roadway, which will also impact the main road that is nearby. He was using a temporary bridge, which he was warned not to do because it is dangerous,” said Palmer.

When The Gleaner visited the Brissett’s residence on Friday, family friend Vashtily Galloway bemoaned his death, saying that it could have been avoided had the municipal corporation allowed him to create a bridge across the trench. But Palmer said that was not necessary.

“There would be no need to build a bridge as there is an existing road. Say you build a bridge there and the water overflows the bridge, there is also a danger of being washed away. The earth drain is there to protect property and life by channelling the water away in a proper manner,” the CEO told The Gleaner.

Palmer also said that the drain, which was reportedly cleaned two months ago, is a priority as it channels water into a main drain.

“It was cleaned, and, in that case, we cannot have our cake and eat it. When the drain is not cleaned, persons complain. With the rainy season coming up, the drains must be cleaned,” he said.

On Friday, Maxine told The Gleaner that her father’s death came as a “total shock” to her family.

“I am emotional, but I am also very, very angry because this is something that need not have happened and concerns were raised. My dad foresaw the danger, and he raised his concerns,” she said.

While the Trelawny Municipal Corporation has made efforts to rid itself of blame, executive director of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), Mickel Jackson, pointed out that this incident has underscored the importance of proper safety provisions for pedestrians.

“Beyond this case, JFJ is particularly concerned about the number of trenches and broken manholes across the country that flies in the face of the disabilities act. How do you ensure that someone who is visually impaired or physically disabled safely navigates the streets?”

“Several complaints have come from the disabled community and older persons that despite the passage of the act, they feel unsafe and that the Government, via its regulatory bodies, has given no clear timeline as to when the State will get its house in order to ensure reasonable attempts are made to address this pervasive issue.”