BLUEFIELDS, Westmoreland — Three families are now struggling to cope under the weight of heartbreaking grief as they recall the moments after they learnt that their loved ones were among five people killed in Monday evening’s motor vehicle crash in Westmoreland.

Eudith Wilson lost her daughter, 39-year-old Petrina Wallace, and her 15-year-old granddaughter Lavecia Forrester, who lived in Gordon district, Whitehouse.

Wilson told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday that she rushed to the scene of the crash but when she arrived she was told her daughter had already died and her granddaughter was taken to hospital.

“I looked at her [Petrina]; the Lord gave me the strength. Then I moved on to the hospital. By time I reach there I saw my nieces crying and [they] said my granddaughter died,” Wilson said, visibly distraught.

“I went inside, looked at my granddaughter; I touched her, I tried calling her, and no response,” the grief-stricken Wilson said.

In addition to Wallace and Forrester the crash claimed the lives of Mount Edgecombe residents Oneil Allen, otherwise called Dummy, and his 65-year-old mother Angela Samuels.

Grief is all too familiar for their family.

On Mother’s Day 2021, Samuels lost her pregnant daughter Jodian in a crash. The Observer was told that Jodian, who was in the seventh month of her pregnancy, was the pillion on a bike when it collided with a vehicle in Springfield, Sheffield. The driver of the bike also died.

The fifth victim of Monday’s crash was 54-year-old Janet Thompson, who lived in McAlpine district. Her only son, Owen Plummer, had the difficult task of verifying her identity at the scene. He said he has been left shattered.

“When I lift the covers off I realise it was my mom. To be honest, it was devastating,” he recounted.

He said they had shared a bond that grew stronger as he matured.

“At one point I was going down the wrong road and my mom stood with me, fight with me; she never gave up. Now, she sees me coming around and taking a different path. My mom was so happy to see that,” a distraught Plummer recalled.

Before her death, he said, they were the closest they had ever been.

“Even at church I am the one that plays the keyboard, and she was the one who plays the drum,” he said.

For Thompson’s niece, Danesha Sanderson, her birthday will now be forever associated with the day her aunt died. She said Thompson had called her dad and asked him to pick her up and they were on their way when they heard there had been a crash.

“We leave and go down there, and [when we got there] it was my aunt. It was on my birthday, I can’t forget that day — November 13. That feeling can’t go away! Even when my birthday comes, I have to remember [my aunt’s death] over and over,” Sanderson told the Observer before bursting into tears.

Meanwhile, even as she grieved, Thompson’s daughter, Sabrina Marshall, was already thinking of how she would keep a vow she had made to her mother to take care of her 16-year-old sibling.

“I told her that if I should die first I would want her to take the very best care of my daughter. And if, God forbid, she went before me, I would do my best to make sure I substitute as best as I can, because she cannot be replaced. But I will try my best to be there for her,” she told the Observer.

Marshall said she has no ill will towards the driver of the taxi in which her mother died. Instead, she spoke of the importance of forgiveness.

“As Christians, part of life is forgiveness. I am not saying we are not hurting at the moment, because we are. But right now, I don’t have any feelings harbouring for anyone to harm him or anything,” she said.

Accompanied by his lawyer, the driver of the grey Toyota Voxy involved in the crash turned himself in to the police Tuesday morning.

Senior Superintendent of Police Wayne Josephs had said that the driver fled after the crash. However, some residents have countered that claim, saying he left the scene to seek medical care. Among them is Wilson, who told the Observer that she saw the driver at the hospital Monday evening.

She, too, appears to bear him no ill will.

“I don’t know him as any reckless driver,” she said.

She added that she had been his passenger several times in the past and he was familiar with the roads.

According to the police report, about 3:30 pm the taxi, with six people on-board, was travelling towards Whitehouse when the vehicle it was travelling behind slowed down. The cab driver swerved, collided with a truck travelling in the opposite direction and ended up in a tree.

Three of the occupants of the taxi died on the scene while two others died at hospital. All those who died are from Westmoreland.

On Tuesday, Marshall appealed to road users to be careful lest they suffer the same fate as her mother and the others who died in the crash.

“I would like to say to the other motorists — taxi drivers and people who are driving their personal vehicle out there — sometimes we are already late for where we are going. Might as well we just take our time and reach as soon as we can,” she urged.