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CORONER’S FILES: Deadly crash

Antoinette Connell

CORONER’S FILES: Deadly crash

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James?Johnson?Jr, 61, an American visitor staying at Freshwater Bay Apartments, Black Rock, St?Michael, died on Good Friday, March 25, 2005, after a collision on Prospect Road, St James.
Johnson, who normally resided in Miami, Florida, was in Barbados with his girlfriend Kim Bourne on March 20 for a brief holiday. They were due to leave the island on March 28.
The couple rented a car from Corbin’s Car Rentals Inc. A representative of that company verified that all documentation was in order. She further verified that the car was comprehensively insured, in perfect condition and mechanically sound. Lily Corbin of the rental car company testified that she informed Johnson that he must always wear a seat belt, that he must observe the speed limit and drive on the left side of the road.
Harold DeBonis who flew to Barbados after the tragedy and who identified Johnson’s body, confirmed in a statement to police that he had spoken to his cousin every day while Johnson was in Barbados, except the day of his death. The two were business partners in the construction industry in the United States.
DeBonis confirmed that Johnson was in good health and spirits. He also said that Johnson rarely drank strong drinks and the most he was ever known to imbibe was two beers at any one time.
Lionel Parris, driver of the Transport Board bus BM18 which collided with Johnson’s rented car, had held a heavy duty licence since 1984 and had been employed there since 1998. In his evidence he pointed out that some of his duties entailed checking the braking system and steering of his vehicle before he commenced work. He was responsible for logging any defects and he was expected to report the same to the supervisor on duty.
Having made all the checks on Friday March 25, 2005, Parris started his shift at 1:30 p.m. and reported to the Speightstown bus depot, St Peter. He left the terminal for Bridgetown travelling along Highway 1.
It was a clear bright day, so the visibility was good and the road was dry.
There was a line of traffic going into?Bridgetown which from time to time proceeded fairly slowly as there was a slow-moving minibus up ahead which, like BM18, was letting off and picking up passengers. Parris estimated this speed to be about 20 kph.
Farther on, the traffic lightened and the minibus increased its speed. It was confirmed by witnesses that BM18 was then travelling about 40 kph.
About 2:05 p.m when BM18 reached Prospect Road, directly opposite the Full Gospel Assembly Church on the left side, Parris saw a grey Toyota car coming around the bend towards him. It appeared to be on its left and proper side and to be travelling at a moderate to slow speed.
He then saw the left front wheel of the car strike a small bridge or kerb wall on its left side causing its rear end to be elevated about a foot in the air. The car was swerving wildly across the road toward the bus.
Parris said that in reaction to this, he jammed his brakes and began to pull the bus to his left in order to avoid colliding with the car. The effort proved futile.
The car spun across the road into the path of BM18 and collided with the bus’ front bumper. This impact caused the car to spin 360 degrees and eventually crash into a guard wall on the same side.
Parris, in an attempt to get away from the spinning car had pulled as far left as he could go and ended with two of the vehicle’s wheels off the road on the left side. He was prevented from further action by the existence of a bridge and a load of marl on his side of the road.  
The car was extensively damaged and in it the driver, the lone occupant, lay slumped across the two front seats. It was very evident that he was not wearing a seat belt. An inflated “sea bed” had flown away from the car and was resting in the middle of the road.
This evidence was further corroborated by Michael Alleng, a passenger in another car behind the bus.
He estimated the speed of the car to be about 30 mph, which was about the same as the bus. Alleng also observed the bus making a pull to the left to avoid the oncoming car.
Kim Bourne, girlfriend of the deceased, came to the scene and identified the driver, who was later pronounced dead, as James Johnson.
The post-mortem report attributed death to “severe traumatic chest injuries with haemorrhage and shock”.
All evidence adduced pointed to the fact that Johnson’s car spun out of control, having hit the kerb and the bus driver was unable to do any more to avoid colliding with him.
Verdict: accidental death in a vehicular collision.