An out of control dump truck side-swiped a Suzuki on in front of Julius E. Sprauve School (JESS) Thursday morning, March 8, hurtling the car across the sidewalk and through the fence, narrowly missing pedestrians as it barreled through Cruz Bay.
The dump truck, which displayed a logo for St. Thomas-based PR Construction and Heavy Equipment and was reportedly loaded with dirt, was traveling at about 30 miles per hour at the time of the accident, according to JESS art teacher Chris Horne, who witnessed the accident. “I could see, physically, that his brakes had failed,” said Horne. “The truck stunk of burned brakes.”
Horn Not Blown
The truck did not blow its horn, according to eyewitnesses, and instead tried unsuccessfully to swerve to avoid rear-ending the Suzuki, which was knocked across the sidewalk where schoolchildren walk each day to reach the crosswalk between JESS and the school’s annex.
“If it had been 15 minutes from now, the classes would have been changing,” said Horne.
As it was, pedestrians barely avoided being hit, according to Horne, who ran after the truck with a number of other witnesses to ensure the driver wasn’t trying to get away.
“I ran after him to make sure he didn’t get away,” said Horne. “He was shaken up, and he looked shocked, like ‘what happened?’”
Several people narrowly avoided being hit by the truck before it struck the Suzuki, driven by Leona Thomas.
“The first thing I saw was a woman with a petrified look racing to the curb, off of the road to the school building near Tage,” said eyewitness Bonny Corbeil.
“In the next instant, I saw this big truck barreling very, very fast, on the wrong side of the road, passing me, knocking out the Suzuki which immediately jumped into the fence at the JESS ballfield,” Corbeil said.
The driver of the truck, 24-year-old Nathan Bastian, was cited for negligent driving and operating a defective vehicle, according to Virgin Islands Police Department spokesperson Shawna Richards.
“Based on the report, the accident appears to have been caused by some sort of mechanical failure,” said Richards. “The driver continued operating the truck despite his awareness of the possible failure. The driver noticed there was mechanical failure which affected his ability to steer the truck and slow down.”
The truck continued on after the accident, eventually coming to a stop between the Nazareth Lutheran Church and Connections in the center of town, explained Corbeil.
No Major Injuries
“The truck kept barreling down toward Connections,” said Corbeil. “I had an awful feeling that anyone in its path would be killed in a second.”
Thomas was taken to Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, according to St. John Administrator Leona Smith.
“She’s doing okay,” said Smith. “She’s kind of shook up because of the accident. She told me she’s in some pain, and she’s home resting now.”
Smith cited the accident as a reason to move the school out of town.
“That’s one of the reasons we really need to work as soon as possible to relocate the school,” said the administrator. “It’s a good thing the kids were in session and other pedestrians weren’t walking on the sidewalk at the time of the accident. We really need to take the school out of Cruz Bay.”
Corbeil also stressed the need for trucks to slow down.
Remembering Javon Alfred
“It is yet another reason for us to really look at our flow of traffic,” said Corbeil. “There are many, many big, fast construction trucks racing to catch barges and get to construction sites, and they are an endangerment to our precious children. Today was a miracle — a miracle that many people were not killed.”
“Everyone on St. John should be very grateful that many people were not killed by this out of control truck,” Corbeil added.
The accident prompted witnesses to reflect on the death of Javon Jade Alfred, who was struck and killed by a delivery truck on December 22, 2004, on his way from a school Christmas party at JESS.
“Were kids crossing at that point, we probably would have had another Javon incident,” said Jessica Richards, whose 12-year-old son attends JESS. “When I heard what happened, I just immediately went down there to see if anyone was hurt. This proves that the school needs to be moved.”
“Luck Will Run Out”
The incident brought Alfred to mind for Corbeil as well.
“If we do not deal with this issue — and soon — there will be an incident where our luck will run out,” said Corbeil. “One child killed by a truck is already too much of a loss.”