Jury hears excessive speed caused East End road fatalities

Speeding vehicle veered into lane of oncoming car carrying three tourists

Police officers examine the scene of the two-car collision in which four people died in East End on May 2, 2017. An inquest into the deaths is under way at the Coroners Court in Grand Cayman. - Photo: Brent Fuller

An inquest into four deaths began on Tuesday, with a Coroner’s Jury hearing evidence that excessive speed caused a collision in which three tourists and one resident were killed in East End last year.

Sgt. Lenford Butler, the accident investigator, said a black Honda Accord driven by Shannay Alexander Delapenha, 22, veered out of its lane and into the lane of a Kia Rio driven by Ian Geoffrey McKenzie Mansell, 72.

Mr. Mansell and the two women with him sustained fatal injuries. They were Pamela Yvonne Mansell, 74, and Marlene Elizabeth Wright, 69. The Mansells and Ms. Wright, all from the U.K., had been staying at the Morritt’s Resort in East End.

Mr. Delapenha, a Jamaican national, was working in Cayman. Two males in the Honda were injured.

Mr. Butler, who gave his evidence on Wednesday, told Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik and the jurors that the collision occurred around 7:15 p.m. on May 2, 2017, along Austin Conolly Drive in the vicinity of the Sunrise Cottage Senior Citizens Home. The Kia was headed back to Morritt’s and the Honda was traveling toward George Town.

A police officer on patrol observed the Honda pass him in the opposite direction with its trunk open. His radar locked on the vehicle at 57 mph. The speed limit in the area was 30 mph.

The officer immediately activated his blue lights and siren to stop the Honda. By the time he was able to turn his patrol car around and follow the Honda, which had continued around a bend in the road, the collision had occurred.

Mr. Butler explained how the injured people were cared for and how the scene was examined. He provided pictures to the jurors showing damages to both vehicles. He included pictures of the police car.

The coroner noted that there had been rumors or allegations that the police car had been involved, but the pictures showed no evidence of any contact – for example, no paint transfer, which would have been obvious because of the contrast between the black Honda and white police car.

Mr. Butler pointed out that the combined force of the collision was the speed of both vehicles – at least 87 mph. He could say with certainty that the Honda was going 57 mph and in his opinion the probability was that the driver of the Honda had increased his speed after seeing the police vehicle. He said the Honda driver failed to negotiate the corner and swerved into the lane of the Kia, giving the Kia driver no time to react.

The coroner instructed jurors that an inquest is not a criminal trial and so they were not dealing with evidence beyond reasonable doubt – they were dealing with a balance of probability.

She recalled other evidence already heard – that the Honda was not licensed or insured, that there were conch in the Honda although the season for taking conch had ended two days earlier.

The second witness on Wednesday was Senior Constable Donavan Chong. His evidence included the fact that he had taken photos of 121 conch recovered from the scene.

The inquest was scheduled to continue until Friday, June 8.