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Dec 19, 2016

Triple tragedy: Road crash in Yo Creek kills three young men

A triple road fatality outside of Orange Walk Town late on Saturday has forever marred Christmas week for three families in the community of Yo Creek. Police have yet to sort out right from wrong in the deaths of two cousins, driver Mainor Hernandez and Jovanni Gongora, and their friend Jason Gongora. The young men were known to be drinking and on their way into Orange Walk Town. Near Cuello’s Distillery, they were crushed under the wheels of a Tillett’s Bus going into rural Orange Walk. The families are still trying to come to grips with the tragedy, which has rendered a little boy fatherless, in addition to other injuries. News Five’s Aaron Humes travelled north and has the story.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

There is no joy today in the village of Yo Creek. Three of its brightest sons – 23-year-old Mainor Hernandez; 26 year old Jason Gongora; and 22-year-old Jovanni Gongora, will not be here to celebrate Christmas with their families. These best friends’ lives were tragically cut short on Saturday night, when Hernandez’s Ford pickup collided with a Tillett’s bus as they were traveling into Orange Walk Town to continue a night of socializing.

 

Inspector Jose Mendez

Inspector Jose Mendez, Deputy Commander, Orange Walk Formation

“There were three occupants in the F-150 pickup, however they were trapped inside the vehicle with extensive damage. With the assistance of the Fire Department personnel from Orange Walk Town, the three occupants of the vehicle, who were apparently dead with serious head and body injuries, were freed, thereafter transported to the Northern Regional Hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.”

 

Aaron Humes

“How was the lighting condition in the area at the time?”

 

Inspector Jose Mendez

“That piece of road doesn’t [have] any street lamps; it was dark.”

 

Aaron Humes

“Did the bus and the pickup have any indicators to indicate who was going in which direction?”

 

Inspector Jose Mendez

“Both vehicles were found on the right hand side of the road traveling toward Yo Creek; however, the police are still trying to establish who appears to be at fault for the accident; it’s still under investigation.”

 

All we spoke to said the young men stood no chance at the moment of impact. The family of Jovanni Gongora, an employee of Golden Princess Hotel and Casino in the Commercial Free Zone, and a married father of a three-year-old son, would not speak to us on camera, but the heartbroken wails of his mother coming from their residence this afternoon tells its own story. Around the corner, Jason Gongora’s family was comforted in their grief by staff of the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute, where he was an employee for this past year.

 

Herman Wade

Herman Wade, Cousin of David Gongora

“He was a very hardworking man; he was dedicated. He put [in] his work; sometimes he could really put [in] his work and sometimes bugger anybody else, but he does it because he knows that he wants to support his family here too. I know he loves his mom so much and sometimes he gives his mom heart trouble and sometimes he doesn’t but the thing is, everything that he does is for everybody’s best interest, deep inside his heart.”

 

Aaron Humes

“What did he do for a living?”

 

Herman Wade

“What he told me about his work is that he usually goes to train farmers or co-workers in how to do specific things and tasks when it comes to SIRDI, that’s as far as I know about his position and that job.”

 

Aaron Humes

“How long did he work there?”

 

Herman Wade

“I would estimate maybe about a year.”

 

Aaron Humes

“So one year…?”

Herman Wade

“By my estimation.”

 

Aaron Humes

“So this is a general gathering of the family and supporters…?”

 

Herman Wade

“[The thing] about Yo Creek is that everybody is already like one family so when anything happens, everybody knows about it and everybody comes to support; that’s how we are in this village.”

 

Yo Creek is small enough that the accident victims lived a stone’s throw from each other; in fact, Mainor Hernandez’s family lives right across from Jason Gongora’s. Mainor’s cousin, Zulmy Babb, visiting all the way from Chunox in Corozal, told us about that friendship and the devastating impact of the accident on her family.

 

Zulmy Babb

Zulmy Babb, Cousin of Mainor Hernandez

“They were usually friends and were young people that would pass time together, playing football, going to the fields and had a lot of time together; and that’s why.”

 

Aaron Humes

“And they died together. Talk to us about how this impacted your family and how you will remember Mainor.”

 

Zulmy Babb

“Well, this impacted our family very bad, because we didn’t expect this accident to occur and his parents weren’t here – his father wasn’t here and that’s why he felt it a lot, because he was coming out of his job and only got paid and he decided to go to Orange Walk, and when they came, he was not here, and for them it was very terrible  what happened to them.”

Hernandez and Jason and Jovanni Gongora, who are not related despite having the same last name, did almost everything together. Their collective loss overwhelms the village, but Wade says everyone has lasting memories to salve their pain. He shared one of his about Jason.

 

Herman Wade

“It’s tragic. Every time we have Christmas now we are going to remember this; it’s not going to be like in the past when we have Christmas anymore. I’ll remember him as loving a lot of dogs; he was really a dog person. As you saw a while ago if you took a tape of the chase, the big German shepherd – he’s all about dogs. And there was a time when I even brought my own dog when I came to live here for a while and he just treated that dog as his own, and that dog ended up liking him more than us, and we’re the owner.”

Police investigations continue, but Inspector Mendez has this timely and terse message for drivers travelling in the holiday season.

 

Inspector Jose Mendez

“The only advice we could give to the drivers is to stay within the speed limit; and if they are going to drive, not to drink, and if they are going to drink,  not to drive.”

 

From Yo Creek, Orange Walk District, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Also injured was a passenger on the bus, George Mejia. He was taken to the Northern Regional Hospital for initial treatment and then to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital for further treatment. Funeral services for Jason Gongora are expected on Tuesday, with Mainor Hernandez and Jovanni Gongora to be buried later this week.

 

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