Drivers on Grand Cayman roads just about always know when an accident has occurred – travel slows to a crawl or just stops.
And when the wait time turns lengthy, it’s a good bet that someone was hurt or killed in the wreck.
It happened last week when rush hour travellers along West Bay Road came to a dead stop for between 30 and 45 minutes because of a relatively minor accident involving a bus and an SUV. Shortly after the wreck occurred in front of the Silver Sands complex north of Public Beach, an ambulance and a police vehicle were on the scene. The two vehicles, a jitney bus with several passengers on board and a Honda CRV, were in the south-bound lane with the ambulance stopped directly behind them. The police vehicle was parked on the road shoulder.
Traffic was passing in between the accident and the police car on the south-bound shoulder of the road, with the bus driver standing alongside the road waving the passing cars through.
According to police the CRV rear-ended the jitney bus around 7.50am when the bus pulled to a stop. Three passengers on the bus and one in the CRV received whiplash injuries that were relatively minor, according to Royal Cayman Islands Police Inspector Adrian Barnett.
But the relatively minor accident clogged traffic headed into town at the height of rush hour. One driver told the Caymanian Compass it took them 20 minutes to travel a quarter mile on North West Point Road to West Bay Public Beach.
In this particular case, a number of factors led to the traffic delay, Inspector Barnett said.
“Unfortunately, it happened in rush hour traffic. You know, we don’t have a lot of roads that we can use [to reroute traffic],” Mr. Barnett said.
However, when there are accidents involving serious injuries or fatalities, police are required to collect enough information at the scene to be able to recreate the accident if that’s needed for court.
“When we do [attend to] accidents….we try to protect the scene,” Mr. Barnett said. “Whether it’s by putting a police car in the middle of the road or putting a police car on the side of the street…we treat any accident involving injuries as a crime scene.” Wednesday morning’s accident could not be classified as a major injury accident, Mr. Barnett said. However, police initially arriving on the scene wouldn’t know that and in any case ambulance crews had to be able to get passengers safely and quickly to the hospital.
“If there are no injuries and there is a minor accident, we map the vehicles and move them off the road,” he said. “It is only in serious injuries and fatalities that we tend, not to block the road, but protect the scene.”
Clean up detail
Royal Cayman Islands Police also have a responsibility at accident scenes to clean up the mess when their investigation is completed. “The fire department or public works will clean up oil spills for us, but we are responsible for cleaning up our own accident scenes,” Mr. Barnett said. That clean up essentially means the road must be cleared. Sometimes, debris is left by the roadside, the inspector admits.
“I must admit that sometimes the debris is swept onto the side of the road, but we should notify the necessary authorities to get it cleaned up,” he said. “Bear in mind a lot of collisions take place within these Islands that aren’t reported.”