ACTING Fire Chief, Lambert Charles, says the Saint Lucia Fire Service (SLFS) is still trying to determine what could have caused a truck carrying fuel last Wednesday afternoon to run off the road and hit a utility pole, killing four people.
Two adults and two children perished when the truck – registration number TK 3817 – burst into flames after hitting the utility pole. Dead are the driver, Thomas Arthur, 54, of Deglos, Castries, Margretia Antoine, 58, David Agard, 6, and Benjamin Agard, 4, of Sarrot, Castries.
Charles said the fire service received a call about the accident around 3:03 p.m. and responded to the scene with a fire truck and ambulance. He said fire officers noticed that people were trapped onboard the still-flaming truck.
“Initially, we didn’t know how many people were onboard,” Charles told The VOICE. “We were able to make out two people but later found out that there were three. One child who had been removed from the vehicle by somebody was taken to hospital by the ambulance with burns about the body.” [That child, Benjamin Agard, later succumbed to his injuries while at hospital.]
Charles said that just before the fatal accident, the truck had left a gas station in Bexon where bulk fuel was bought. He said it was not uncommon for Antoine, who runs a bakery, to purchase fuel for her business. The fuel, he said, might have been a crucial factor to accelerating the fire upon impact, adding that once fuel is transported in approved containers, the likelihood of mishaps is minimal.
“If fuel got spilled as a result of the impact, then we’ll have a major situation,” Charles said.
Due to the burnt state of the truck, Charles said it was difficult to determine the make and model of the truck involved in the accident. A police press release said the charred remains of three people were removed from the truck on Wednesday.
While he could not confirm that speeding was a factor in the fatal accident, Charles said the driver would have lost control of the vehicle, leading to the accident. Vehicular accidents, he said, are caused due to one or more of three crucial factors.
“Every time an accident happens, it’s an error by somebody. In this case, it could have been driver error, condition of vehicle or condition of road. In this case, it was not the condition of the road. So there are two other options. So if we eliminate driver error, we’re eliminating just one-third of the problem. We really cannot do a lot about the road in some cases. But if you drive carefully, you will avoid problems on the road. In this case, there was no problem with the road,” Charles explained.
Charles said the fire service remains concerned about the high prevalence of vehicular accidents on the Bexon Highway. While there is no major problem with the condition of the road itself, he said, there still continues to be a lack of verges for people to walk. He said another concern has to do with placing utility poles close to the road.
Since the accident, there has been an outpouring of condolences for the families and relatives of those who perished. In a statement, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said he was “stunned and incredibly saddened” about the tragedy.
“The mother of little David Agard and Benjamin Agard, the children of Margretia Antoine, must be crushed right now and we spare a thought, too, for the family of the driver, Thomas Arthur,” the Prime Minister said. “These families need all the support they can get from the community at large, and the entire nation shares in their grief.”
The tragedy also had a deep impact on the fire service, Charles said. describing the accident as “tragic”, he said Antoine who sister to a fire officer.
“It strikes home for us. You never expect that one of your own people would be impacted by an accident that you’re responding to,” Charles said.
Investigations into last Wednesday’s fatal crash continue.