A suspected drunken driver was arrested after a deadly wreck on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway in George Town early Wednesday morning.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officials said the suspect, a 31-year-old male, was taken into custody on suspicion of DUI and causing death by dangerous driving.
The man killed in the wreck, identified as St. Matthew’s University graduate student Richard Martin, 52, was apparently giving another St. Matthew’s student a ride around 12.30am Wednesday.
St. Matthew’s Dean of Basic Sciences, Dr, Senthil Kumar, said Mr. Martin and the younger student had been studying late Tuesday and the younger student had asked Mr. Martin for a ride home.
Mr. Kumar said the entire school was devastated by Mr. Martin’s death.
“We feel ashamed that because of such a reckless act … we lost a real asset to the community,” Mr. Kumar said. “Students are struggling to cope, people are just crying out loud at the school today.”
According to police and witnesses at the scene, Mr. Martin’s Honda Logo was headed northbound near Lakeside Villas on the Esterley Tibbetts. The turn off into the condo complex is just off the northbound lanes of the highway.
Police said the small Honda was struck by a Chevrolet Blazer, which was apparently driving the wrong way in the northbound lanes and veering off into the shoulder when the accident occurred.
The Honda Logo ended up across the road on the southbound lanes, nearly 400 feet away from the point of impact. The Chevy SUV landed upright in the bushes just off the road.
Mr. Martin’s passenger was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A man and a woman in the Blazer were also hospitalised, but were expected to survive. The Chevy’s 31-year-old driver was arrested shortly after the wreck. The Caymanian Compass is not naming the Chevy driver since no charges had been filed in the case as of press time.
Witnesses to the accident described a horror scene as Mr. Martin’s passenger in the Honda screamed while on-lookers tried to cut the accident victim out of the car. It was believed the SUV’s driver was trying to turn into the Lakeside complex from the wrong direction when the crash occurred.
Wednesday’s crash was the sixth fatal wreck to occur in the Cayman Islands so far in 2011. It is also at least the fourth deadly wreck to occur along that two-lane stretch of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway since 2007.
At first glance, it may seem a bit odd Mr. Martin was a student at age 52, but a profile of the man that emerged following his death showed someone who loved helping people and who never stopped learning.
Mr. Martin was studying to become a family practice physician at St. Matthew’s and was due to graduate with the class of 2014. “It was his dream to become a doctor and to help others,” said a friend of Mr. Martin’s who did not wish to be identified.
Mr. Martin was a partner at a Pennsylvania company called Active Data Exchange Inc. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which sells and services master calendar organisational software.
Calls to Active Data Exchange Wednesday seeking comment were not immediately returned. According to his Facebook page, Mr. Martin had graduated in 1981 from Pennsylvania State University with a nuclear engineering degree. A full 17 years later, he graduated from the University of Southern California with an engineering management degree. The page said Mr. Martin had served as a lecturer in math and computer science at DeSales University and was on Penn State’s advisory board between 2004 and 2010.
Mr. Kumar said Mr. Martin was at a point in his life where he felt he had made enough money and wanted to pursue a medical career.
“It’s something he wanted to do all his life,” Mr. Kumar said.
The Pennsylvanian was St. Matthew’s oldest medical student in Cayman.
“He won [the other students’] hearts, because the students looked up to him. He was doing phenomenally well in his studies.” Wednesday’s crash was just the latest in a long line of horrendous accidents along the two-lane stretch of the Esterley Tibbetts between Camana Bay and the Butterfield roundabout in George Town.
On 3 August, 2010, 24-year-old FederAnn Faustino of the Philippines died in a head-on crash just a few hundred feet north of where Mr. Martin’s vehicle was hit on Wednesday. The 2010 crash also happened around the same time – 12.30am. A teenage driver, Brooke Nowak, was arrested in connection with the crash and was sentenced to jail in the incident after pleading guilty to causing death by driving while under the influence of alcohol.
In October 2008, an attorney with Appleby died when his BMW collided with a flatbed truck near the Butterfield roundabout. Jonathan Tarboton, 38, died in the 14 October crash in which witnesses said it appeared the BMW’s accelerator had been stuck to the car’s floorboard.
On 14 March, 2008, a Honda Civic carrying four teenage girls ran head-on into a Nissan driven by a male. All five people were hospitalised but survived. Police later said it appeared the Honda had been overtaking while heading into George Town.
On 19 November, 2007, Australian national Shaney Tania Bar-On (known in Cayman as Shaney Kol) died in a head-on collision with a Red Sail Sports SUV driver who said in court that he had nodded off while driving and veered into the opposite lane. He was sentenced to six months in prison. Mrs. Bar-On’s 18-month-old child was in her SUV with her, but the little girl was not harmed in the wreck. Officials with the National Roads Authority have repeatedly detailed plans to widen that particular section of highway into a four-lane, divided road. However, the last estimate from the roads authority is that such work would cost approximately $4 million.