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Jan 29, 2007

Victims critical, Minister of State charged in knockdown

Story PictureTraffic accidents caused by drunk drivers are not unusual in Belize, but when the man behind the wheel is an area representative and Minister of State, what would otherwise be a routine news story becomes a headline. Tonight, while two children battle for life in the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, the man who put them there Sunday night, Toledo West representative, Marcial Mes, is facing that special kind of public outrage reserved for politicians who managed to get caught.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Two year old Denver Gomez suffered severe head injuries and remains unconscious. Fifteen year old Samantha Romero is semi-conscious, suffering from multiple body injuries. The young aunt and nephew were walking on the Southern Highway just inside of Forest Home on their way to church when they were hit from behind by an out of control Nissan Patrol. Raquel Romero, who was walking on the opposite side of the road, says her sister and nephew were approaching the church building when they were knocked down.

Raquel Romero, Samantha Romero’s Sister
“When I turn around and look behind me, I saw this vehicle just come swerving in the road and it went that fast that it slammed into the side of a bus that was parked on the side of the road right in front of the church. And all I heard was a loud bang and by the time I could look, the vehicle just continue drive off and I went running across the road. And by the time I went running across the road I just saw my nephew and sister lying on the ground. My nephew wasn’t breathing, wasn’t saying anything. I just grabbed him and picked him up and called out his name to see if he would answer me, but there was no answer. So I just run into the church and asked for help and everyone came out.”

Both Romero and Gomez were rushed to the Punta Gorda Hospital and then taken by helicopter to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.

Jacqueline Godwin
“What injuries did Samantha receive?”

Orlando Romero, Samantha Romero’s Father
“Well up to what I see, she has a swelling on the forehead, some of the top teeth knocked out, she has a broken arm, broken leg and a cut on the knee and this area is all bruised up.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“What about your grandson, how is he doing?”

Orlando Romero
“Right now he is unconscious. He was conscious last night and now he went back into unconsciousness.”

“According to the CAT scan, they are saying he has a fractured skull and they say that he went back into sleeping because of a swelling in the brain.”

Racquel says after tending to her relatives, she ran to the S.U.V. and was surprised to see it was Minister of State Marcial Mes seated in the driver’s seat. Romero says Mes appeared to have been driving under the influence of alcohol.

Racquel Romero, Samantha Romero’s Sister
“When the vehicle stopped, then I saw that it was him and when I reached there two other passengers that were along with him that were taking out the Belikin beers and throw them on the roadside. And I told him don’t throw them away because I will still let the policeman come and pick them up and he was all smell.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“That’s the driver?”

Raquel Romero
“The driver and two passengers.”

“I recognized him because I went up to him and I asked him why he didn’t stop the very first time, why he continued to drive off and he did not answer me. He wasn’t going to turn back, but the reverend came out of the church and talked to me and he went and tell him to turn back. ”

Orlando Romero says it is heartbreaking watching his daughter and grandson, but it is equally disturbing knowing that it was Mes, the area representative of Toledo West, who knocked them down.

Jacqueline Godwin
“Did he apologise, did he enquire about your daughter and grandson?”

Orlando Romero
“No, he didn’t say anything, he didn’t ask anything. He just said, I was the driver and that was it.”

Kenisha Romero, Denver Gomez’s Mother
“Yes, he was drinking because I saw him at the police station. And when we went back to Forest Home, we see all the beer pints that he threw out into the bush because I went back to see where it happened.”

Noel Leal, O.C., Punta Gorda Police
”It also appeared to us, and it is important here that he appearance to the police must be as if he appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that is the way he appeared to us yesterday and that is why we asked him if he would cooperate with taking a blood test. But it is his right to refuse and if anybody refuses, then there is a charge for it.”

Mes has been charged for Driving Without Due care and Attention, two counts of Negligent Harm and Failure to Provide Specimen for Testing. According to the police, depending on the outcome of medical treatment, Mes’ charges can be upgraded. Today, family members say they strongly believe that any driver should be tested following a traffic accident and not have the right to decline the procedure.

Orlando Romero
“Well, yes I think so because I went through a procedure like that already where I didn’t even hit this person and I had to go and take a test. So I think they should do it for him too, even though he is a minister.”

Noel Leal
”The police did what it had to do by law, which is to process, in this case the driver of the vehicle and over the course of the night he was eventually charged. … The procedures are in black and white, we followed them and we did all we could, reports were taking, we are looking forward to getting some statements now and we did everything that was possible and that is legal. Traffic offences are bailable offences and the minister was afforded bail with sureties and the matter is now before the court.”

Kenisha Romero, Mother of Denver Gomez
“Well all I want is to let him see the condition of what he did and thing like that. I want him come see what happened. I think he noh even come, gone to the hospital and see the pickney or gone see my sister. Nothing like that to see the damage that he do, fi mek he be a minister and di run away from things like that. Because my son noh even have a pa right now, his father just dead about five months ago, so dah only me deh there for my son right now.”

The son of Marcial Mes visited the K.H.M.H. today and spoke to the family of the injured children.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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