Visiting Jamaican doctor dies from accident injuries

Dr. Jones-Leslie described as pioneer in women’s health

A Jamaican doctor who died Tuesday from injuries she suffered after being struck by a taxi van at Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport was remembered by her colleagues as a pioneer in the field of women’s health.

Dr. Vary Jones-Leslie, 62, died at the Cayman Islands Hospital less than 24 hours after she was struck on Owen Roberts Drive.

Dr. Jones-Leslie, an obstetrician-gynecologist, had arrived Monday morning for a temporary shift at the hospital, where she was a substitute to assist local physicians, hospital Chief Executive Officer Lizzette Yearwood said. It was an arrangement Dr. Jones-Leslie had participated in a number of times for the Health Services Authority, Ms. Yearwood said.

Royal Cayman Islands Police, who were still investigating the fatal crash at press time Tuesday, said the taxi van driver, a 69-year-old man from Bodden Town, was treated at hospital and released.

It appeared that Dr. Jones-Leslie was attempting to walk across the three-lane Owen Roberts Drive just north of the airport terminal around 10:45 a.m. Monday when she was struck, police said. The taxi van that hit her showed significant damage on the right side of its hood. Some bags she had apparently been carrying on a trolley were strewn across the road, and first responders found her lying in the middle of the street.

No arrests were reported as of press time Tuesday in connection with the crash.

Dr. Jones-Leslie’s family members flew to Cayman Monday afternoon to be with her, medical personnel confirmed.

News of the veteran physician’s death spread quickly throughout the medical communities in Cayman and Jamaica.

“I know we are all just so saddened,” said Dr. Rhonda Reeves, a fellow doctor and former trainee of Dr. Jones-Leslie told the Cayman Compass on Tuesday. “Her work touched all over Jamaica and overseas.

“She was my consultant [physician] when I was first starting out. She gave you the confidence to go out there early on, that you can do it.”

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Dr. Reeves said historically the ob-gyn medical field in Jamaica was a male-dominated profession, but she said that has changed in recent years with many of female doctors trained by Dr. Jones-Leslie working in government facilities and private practice.

“She pretty much took the female [doctors] under her wing,” Dr. Reeves said, adding that her mentor always seemed to connect well with the younger generation. “Everybody always thought that she was really young, 10 years younger than she actually was,” she said.

Ms. Yearwood said the impact of Dr. Jones-Leslie’s sudden death was “immeasurable.”

“Her life and work as a clinician will be remembered by all of us,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin said Tuesday. “Her warm spirit, caring attitude and commitment to making a difference in the lives of others was exemplary.”

The HSA also noted that medical staff, including surgeon Dr. James Akinwunmi, had to work “under very difficult and emotional circumstances” in attempts to save their colleague’s life Monday and early Tuesday.

Dr. Jones-Leslie had worked up until last year at the government-run Spanish Town Hospital in Jamaica, but she retired in 2016 from public service, according to hospital Chief Executive Officer Gregory Thomas. She was still active in private practice, according to colleagues in Jamaica.

Police accident investigators and other personnel examine the damage to a taxi after it struck a pedestrian Monday morning outside Owen Roberts International Airport. – Photo: Brent Fuller

Safety concerns

Monday morning’s accident raised some safety concerns among officials about the entrance road into the airport terminal.

There are three crosswalks along Owen Roberts Drive which, is bookended to the north and south by airport parking lots and by Andy’s Rent-A-Car property. However, there are no crossing lights at those intersections, and the road heading into the airport terminal does not have any speed bumps, although the road adjacent to the terminal does.

“[The ministry] will … be looking at strengthening existing safety protocols at the airport and its environs in an effort to prevent such incidents happening in the future,” Transport Minister Moses Kirkconnell said.

Chris Hadome, the head of the Cayman Islands Taxi Association, said Tuesday that the crash was unfortunate, but that he believed the government had done what it could to ensure the area around the airport was safe.

He suggested that crossing lights could be installed at the pedestrian intersections to further warn drivers to slow down while on approach to the terminal.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Everything is backwards. Not until few people got killed trying to cross WBR something was done to improve pedestrian safety. The same is here.
    Condolences to the family and friends of the victim.

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  2. Certainly, this is beyond tragic. Condolences to the family. What was the speed of the van driver. Speed is very often
    the cause of accidents on Cayman. Is the van driver here legally. Dr. Jones- Leslie was a very important productive individual.
    Loss of life in this case will need to be investigated from a liability stand point, and her contribution to society and her profession. Certainly responsibility must fall on the shoulders of the driver. I am so sorry another tragic accident has occurred here again, because of careless drivers.

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  3. While many Cayman Island taxi and bus drivers are courteous and careful there are a number who drive too fast.
    I have no idea how fast this particular driver was going but from the size of the impact it was much faster than 15mph.
    So sorry to hear of this tragedy.
    It seems for a small island we have far too many accidents on the road.

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  4. This news is indeed sad, one in which shocked the country and my self. I personally knew this doctor and hope that her case is handle properly. As an expert in motor vehicle crash reconstruction i would like to know some facts surrounding this collision. How fast was this vehicle travelling; If this stretch of road was straight how far away could a normal attentive driver perceive along the roadway, please tell us about perception and reaction time; What is the speed limit and the friction value for the roadway; what year vehicle was this perhaps 2008 Toyota Hiace, and can anyone say if it is equipped with airbags; was there any other evidence which can assist the general public in understanding how this collision unfold?

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