Community service ordered for doctor’s road death

Pedestrian at airport was vulnerable victim, Crown points out

A driver whose taxi struck and killed an arriving passenger at the airport was sentenced on Friday to perform 240 hours of unpaid community service.

Roy Clivey Tamasa, who was 70 when the incident occurred on July 17, 2017, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Dr. Vary Jones-Leslie by careless driving. A 62-year-old obstetrician/gynaecologist, she was a regular visitor to Grand Cayman, working with the Health Services Authority. She had just arrived on a flight from Kingston, Jamaica.

Crown counsel Greg Walcolm said the victim, as a pedestrian, was a vulnerable road user outside the terminal of the Owen Roberts International Airport, where one would expect there to be many pedestrians.

The offence was initially charged as causing death by dangerous driving, but reconsidered after expert reports clarified what had happened. Tamasa had been driving twice the speed limit of 15 mph, not three times as originally thought.

Justice Michael Wood noted that the collision occurred “not actually on the pedestrian crossing, but slightly off it”.

Walcolm detailed that the victim was crossing the roadway diagonally, not perpendicular to the flow of traffic. At the point of impact, she was continuing on her diagonal path with the pedestrian crossing behind her and to her left.

Before the impact, Tamasa was “momentarily distracted” because he had glanced across the short-term car park to check the level of congestion at the taxi dispatch lane outside the terminal exit.

He applied his brakes before impact, but it was too late to avoid collision.

Tamasa immediately brought his Toyota Hiace van to a complete stop. He remained at the scene noticeably distressed and repeatedly saying how sorry he was.

The victim was taken to hospital, where she died the next day. Tamasa was taken to hospital for treatment of hypertension and was released around 10 p.m.

Justice Wood said he had read a victim impact report from the victim’s husband, along with a social inquiry report about Tamasa and his letter of apology to the victim’s family.

He said as much as he tried, he could not imagine the depth of their grief at her sudden passing. ”There were moments I wished it were my own life that was taken. Only God knows how much this accident has affected my life, especially my health. Deepest remorse has never left me and I wish that the accident had never happened. I have relived the event every day.”

The judge noted Tamasa’s previous clean traffic record, over 17 years experience as a licensed taxi operator and good character.

He also observed that, since this incident, “some speed calming humps” had been put in that stretch of road.

Roy Clivey Tamasa’s taxi at the scene of the July 17, 2017, fatal accident in which Dr. Vary Jones-Leslie was killed as she crossed the road near Owen Roberts International Airport. Tamasa was sentenced on Friday to community service. – Photo: File

Tamasa was represented by Richard Barton of Barton Attorneys-at Law, led by Ben Tonner QC of McGrath Tonner.

Senior defence counsel Tonner pointed out that, under the Cayman Islands Penal Code, sentences for traffic cases could not be suspended. He said that restriction should be changed. “The Court of Appeal has commented recently that it should be changed. So far, it has not been.”

He suggested that the only option was for the court to consider a community service order.

The judge said he had no alternative, realistically, as he had intended to pass a suspended sentence. He said he found his sentencing options “extraordinary”.

Checking with a social worker, who confirmed that suitable projects could be found, Justice Wood imposed the maximum amount of community service allowed by law. He also ordered disqualification from driving for three years and agreed to the return of the vehicle to its owner.

Tamasa’s insurance company was expected to sort out compensation claims by the victim’s husband.