A weekend of tragedy and pain

The loss of human life in tragic circumstances is always painful, regardless of the age of the deceased but especially so when young people are involved because of the unfulfillment of their promise of contributing to the betterment of humanity.

This past weekend was particularly traumatic for Barbadians and our Vincentian neighbours after two separate early morning tragedies, on consecutive days, claimed a total of five lives — four young people, including three Vincentian teenaged girls here on a hotel training attachment — and an elderly lady.

On Saturday morning, the country awoke to the tragic news that 74-year-old retired nurse Verona Gibson of Monroe Road, Haggatt Hall, St Michael had been mauled and killed by a pack of pitbulls, as she was making her way to the nearby St Barnabas Anglican Church to perform cleaning duties.

Yesterday morning, the country awoke again to the sad news of the tragedy involving the four young people, including a St Philip male, who died following a horrific motor vehicle accident near the Graeme Hall Roundabout on the ABC highway.

We are saddened by both tragedies and extend condolences to grieving relatives and friends of the deceased. However, both events, as painful as they are, do offer lessons which, if applied, may help contribute to preventing a recurrence and, more importantly, saving valuable lives.

The unfortunate mauling of the elderly lady, it can be argued, was an accident that was waiting to happen, given the repeated expressions of concern over the years about the growing presence of certain types of dangerous dogs, especially pitbulls, imported into the island over the last 25 or so years.

The tendency of such dogs to attack human beings is well documented in stories from many countries. Barbadians who go for early morning walks as a form of exercise to stay fit and keep certain chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertention at bay, occasionally encounter dogs in the public roads as they pass through some communities. It appears, in some cases, that these dogs are set free at nights and manage to escape from the confines of their homes because the perimeter fences are not secure enough.

The tragedy underscores the need for authorities to review existing legislation regarding the ownership of dangerous dogs with a view to tightening controls and introducing more effective provisions to ensure owners live up to their responsibiities. Dogs are regarded as man’s best friend but, in some cases, they can also be his worst enemy when persons, including owners sometimes, are viciously attacked.

The fatal Graeme Hall accident on Sunday morning brought back painful memories of a similar early morning tragedy a little over a year ago on Two Mile Hill, St Michael, when four young ladies lost their lives. Could the consumption of alcohol have been a factor? In the absence of hard evidence, we cannot say for sure but it is a factor which cannot be ruled out.

The Barbados Road Safety Association, a non-governmental organization of volunteers, must be commended for its tireless efforts in seeking to sensitize Barbadians, especially motorists, on the importance of road safety. The association’s ongoing awareness campaign heavily promotes refraining from indulging in harmful practices such as consuming alcholol when persons are out partying.

The consumption of alcohol, identified by the association as a major contributor to road accidents, has the effect of impairing the judgement of drivers. It is heavily recommended that if a group is going out and plans to drink, it should choose someone who will not drink and designate him or her as the person who will drive and ensure everyone reaches their homes safely.

Admittedly, getting the message of road safety through to young people can be challenging. This is because young people are more inclined to take risks because of feelings of invincibility in relation to causing serious injury to themselves and even dying. A special approach will be needed in their case.

We back the call by the Barbados Road Safety Association for the introduction of breathalyzer testing. This measure has been under discussion for so long that one wonders what is the hold-up.The loss of a single life on our roads is one too many. Furthermore, it may be a good idea for the police to step up random weekend checks of persons travelling roads during the early hours, especially where there are signs suggesting impaired driving.

Human life is sacred. Human life is precious. Human life is irreplacable. Protecting and saving human life, therefore, must be a paramount consideration of every society, especially by the authorities, and should never be taken for granted.

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