Four people killed in a two-car collision in East End last year died by misadventure, a Coroner’s Court jury determined on Thursday after an inquest that lasted three days.
The jury of four women and three men heard evidence concerning the deaths of Shannay Alexander Delapenha, 22; Marlene Elizabeth Wright, 69; Pamela Yvonne Mansell, 74; and Ian Geoffrey Mansell, 72.
All four died on May 2 last year after the Honda Accord driven by Mr. Delapenha left its lane and went into the lane of the oncoming Kia Rio driven by Mr. Mansell. The collision occurred along Austin Conolly Drive shortly after 7 p.m.
Jurors heard evidence that the speed limit in the area was 30 mph. The Honda was clocked by police radar at 57 mph. There was no direct evidence of the Kia’s speed, but accident reconstructionist Sgt. Lenford Butler said he found gouges and scrape marks in the road surface showing that the Kia had been pushed backward some 22 feet from the point of impact. This fact indicated that the force and speed of the Honda was greater than that of the Kia, he explained.
If the Kia had been traveling at the legal limit, the combined force of the two vehicles would have been a minimum of around 90 mph, he said. Mr. Butler expressed the opinion that the driver of the Honda was reckless in not pulling over when the police officer who clocked his speed sought to stop him by activating his blue lights and siren. Instead, Mr. Delapenha had continued around a blind corner, failed to negotiate the bend and swerved into the path of the Kia.
There was no evidence of any factor other than speed as the cause of the collision. Alcohol was not a factor. The weather and visibility were good. The road surface was dry and in good condition.
Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik suggested it was likely that Mr. Delapenha speeded up upon seeing the police car. She noted that the Honda was not licensed and not insured. It was also carrying conch, although the conch season had ended April 30.
In her instructions to the jurors on Thursday, she explained the various verdicts possible under the Coroner’s Law. One possibility is “unlawful killing.” That verdict did not suit this situation, she explained, because it would require a standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. There was no evidence that Mr. Delapenha intended to kill himself or anyone else, she pointed out.
If Mr. Delapenha had survived, in all likelihood he would have been charged under the Traffic Law with causing death by careless, reckless or even dangerous driving, she said.
Under the Coroner’s Law, the verdicts appropriate to this case jurors could consider were misadventure or an open verdict. Misadventure is appropriate when the evidence suggests that death was the unintended consequence of a deliberate action. An open verdict is appropriate when there is not enough evidence to record any other verdict.
Jurors had heard a lot of information but, although it helped them to understand the circumstances of what happened, the coroner said their task was limited to determining the identity of each person, when, where, how and by what means each came to his or her death.
Background information included an independent report by accident reconstructionist Colin Redden. He said he was asked by Mr. Butler to examine the vehicles because of a rumor that the police car had been involved in the collision. He said he went to the scene that night and checked, he went back to the scene the next morning, and he made a third check after the vehicles were moved to the Bodden Town Police Station.
He said he examined the body panels and side mirrors for any sign of damage or paint transfer, including the rear bumper and trunk of the Honda. He found nothing on either vehicle to indicate any contact.
The coroner read statements from various police officers involved. Several explained how they provided security at the collision site throughout the night so that nobody could disturb the scene.
In their verdicts, jurors were directed to the autopsy reports by government pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti, who listed the physical cause of death for each person.
Mr. Delapenha, a Jamaican national who had been working in Cayman, was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision. Cause of death was blunt impact trauma to the chest.
There were two male passengers in the Honda and they sustained injuries. They were not wearing seat belts, as they were riding in the trunk.
Mr. and Mrs. Mansell and Ms. Wright, who was Mrs. Mansell’s sister, were British citizens on vacation and staying at Morritt’s Tortuga Club Resort. All three were wearing seat belts.
Ms. Wright, who had been sitting in the rear passenger seat, sustained injuries to her neck, chest and abdomen which related to “seat belt impact trauma.”
Cause of death for Mrs. Mansell was multiple injuries to the chest and abdomen consistent with “high speed seat belt impact trauma.”
For Mr. Mansell, the driver, the physical cause of death was transection of the aorta.