By Patrina C. Nelson (Teacher and frequent user of Bog Walk Gorge)
I have been commuting to work via the Bog Walk Gorge from Spanish Town in St. Catherine for approximately 14 years and have had a love|hate relationship with the gorge.
The gorge is one of the most amazing places for me; I love travelling through there taking in the breathtaking scenes of the lush green hills and the meandering Rio Cobre and always awed by the historical Flat Bridge.
Despite these attractive features of the gorge, it is where I had my first and only major motor vehicle accident.
I left my home in the Spanish Town area on that January morning returning to work after the Christmas break of 2011. I was travelling behind a small Toyota Hiace bus when it suddenly stopped in an area known as Ackee Walk to take up a passenger. In order to avoid hitting into back of the bus, I swerved to the opposite side.
Finding myself going towards the river, I swerved again in the other direction hitting the embankment and overturned.
It all happened so quickly, when the car stopped, I looked to the back to see my two-year-old up-sided-down, still strapped in her car seat, unhurt.
We were assisted out of the wrecked car by passengers from the bus. I was so grateful to be alive and more importantly, my daughter was OK. Thank God.
It took me three months to face the gorge again. I remembered how anxious I was and the fear I experienced especially passing the spot where I almost lost my life. Even to this day, eight years after, I am still reminded of the accident whenever I pass Ackee Walk; how I only escaped with a whiplash and my life and my daughter’s were spared.
Unfortunately, not everyone, who has had accidents in the gorge, survives. Over the years, many persons have died on that roadway or drowned in the river, resulting in heartache and pain for many families and communities.
We have seen the pictures of mangled motor vehicles; trucks submerge in the river after failing to successfully negotiate the flat bridge, cars being pulled out of the river, blood on the roadways and the deaths that are associated with these scenes.
On May 20, 2020, Ricardo Stephenson, a past student of The Enid Bennett High School in Bog Walk, aged 19 years, died in the gorge.
Although I didn’t personally teach this young man while he was at school, I had on occasions substituted for his Social Studies teacher, thus my interaction with him.
I was always impressed with his commitment towards his education and his future. Now, he is tragically taken -a victim of a road accident in the gorge.
I want to publicly express my condolences to his family and especially to his brother Eric Stephenson who has similar qualities, and who I know will do exceptionally well in the future because he’s goal-oriented.
However, I really do hope the loss of his brother will not impact too greatly on his sitting of the July CSEC examinations.
As a daily user of the Bog Walk Gorge, I have witnessed a significant number of unbelievable incidences where motorists have recklessly and carelessly used the gorge.
Several times, to my shock and awe, I have seen motorists overtaking around corners, speeding and driving aggressively; not caring about the lives of others using the roadway.
Over the years, I have heard a lot of death myths surrounding the gorge – some of them really ridiculous, in my mind. One of them is that the slaves who built the bridge want blood/souls, hence the loss of lives. There is something else about golden|silver table and mermaids. But for me they are mere myths.
Many accidents that occur in the gorge are the faults of undisciplined motorists acting irresponsibly; not the fault of our ancestors who built an extraordinary bridge that has survived to this day and which we are still utilizing.
To address the carelessness and recklessness of the motorists, more policing is needed. There should be at least three biked officers patrolling the area daily; ensuring that motorists obey the road codes.
In addition, the authorities must ensure that de-bushing is done on a regular basis and not just for Christmas and Independence. More signage and reflectors should also be placed on the road-way to guide motorists.
However, the onus is also on the motorists who traverse these corridors to be more responsible. Too many lives are being lost in the gorge, although this does not have to be so.
All that is needed is for motorists to exercise caution. Simply slowing down and obeying posted speed limits can definitely make the gorge safer.
I implore all of us to use the roadway responsibly. Do not be selfish. Think of others.
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