Dyke road fatality was misadventure

An inquest into the death of Andre Blackwood determined that the truck he was driving left a dyke road by accident and rolled into a water-filled canal. The truck landed upside down and Andre was unable to exit the vehicle.

The incident occurred on 21 December, 2006, and a Coroner’s Jury returned the verdict of misadventure on 30 July this year. Queen’s Coroner Margaret Ramsay-Hale instructed jurors as to their choices: natural causes, suicide or misadventure. If they concluded there was insufficient evidence, they could return an open verdict.

The coroner referred to evidence of Andre’s co-workers, including Cleon Daley, who gave evidence in person. They all said Andre, 21, seemed his usual self that day. There was no evidence to suggest suicide.

Mr. Daley explained that the men worked together at Island Paving, where Andre was a security guard. He said it was not unusual for Andre to take company trucks out of the compound to fuel them.

On the day of the incident, he went looking for Andre around 5pm because he needed some tools. He was told Andre had just left in a truck. When Andre didn’t come back, the men rang his cell phone but there was no answer.

Mr. Daley said that was unusual because Andre never left the job for long. By the time he punched out, it was getting dark. He and two co-workers went searching for Andre. He saw a dyke road adjacent to the north side of the George Town landfill. Until then, he did not know it connected to the Esterley Tibbetts By-Pass.

On the dyke road he saw some bush flattened and a tyre mark that looked like something slid off the road. He turned his car to shine his headlights into the area. He saw the truck upside down in a swampy ditch that had plenty water in it. The men called their supervisor.

Mr. Daley went to the water and tried to open the truck door, but couldn’t. He called out but got no response. Then he tried the door again and got it open.

By standing on some branches he was able to get Andre to the side of the truck. The other two men helped get him up to the road. Andre was just silent; his eyes were red and he didn’t appear to be breathing. The men waited until police and an ambulance came.

Police Constable Michael Caputo, who has nine years experience with the Traffic Department, provided jurors with aerial photos of the dyke road and where the vehicle rolled into the water. He said there were no skid marks and no debris to indicate any collision.

PC Caputo noted that the road was 12 feet wide, not surfaced and had potholes. When he attended the scene the night of the incident, there was a puddle on the left side of the road.

The coroner asked if his investigations had led him to form a theory of how the accident happened.

PC Caputo said yes: ‘I believe he drove around the puddle so as not to dirty the vehicle.’ The officer explained that the truck was a large Ford, left-hand drive. Andre, not being totally familiar with the vehicle, may have misjudged how much room he had on the right side. The right wheels would have left the road surface, causing the truck to roll as it went down into the water.

PC Caputo also pointed out that the sun was going down in the direction the vehicle was facing. With the vegetation on the side of the road, someone driving into the sun may not have seen the drop-off, he suggested.

The pathologist’s report showed tests for drugs and alcohol were negative. Physical cause of death was terminal water submersion.

Government pathologist Shavana Jyoti explained this as a combination of congestion and oedema. Derangement of the body system results in stomach contents entering the upper airways and causing an obstruction, he said. Oedema is the increase in fluid content between the body tissues.

Andre, not being totally familiar with the vehicle, may have misjudged how much room he had on the right side. The right wheels would have left the road surface, causing the truck to roll as it went down into the water.

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