Minibus M678, owned and driven by Encrata Mitchel on the Castries to Grande Riviere route, took a fiery blow today.
At about 9:45 am, Mitchel, a resident of Grande Riviere, Gros Islet, told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) that he drove his bus into town and heard what he claimed was an unusual sound.
Upon arrival at the designated bus stop, Mitchel said took his vehicle to mechanic Joseph Pierre, who plies his trade right next to the St Lucia Marketing Board, conveniently located in close proximity to at least five bus stations. There he was told that his alternator bearing had gone bad. He asked Pierre to remove the defective part so that he could purchase a new on. He then left the area and went to a barber shop a few minutes away.
Upon his return some 40 minutes later, he told SNO that he was shocked to see his van in flames and the fire and ambulance services on the scene. In a matter of 10 minutes, his entire livelihood was gone.
Though his van is insured, Mitchel expects to spend some time off the job, as he will need to deal with the official investigation and his insurance adjusters in order to replace his vehicle.
Eyewitnesses told SNO that the fire happened so quickly that all efforts to respond seemed futile. They did, however, join Pierre in his quest to prevent the total loss of the vehicle. They threw water and even juice in this attempt, but to no avail.
Pierre, who sustained undefined injuries to his hands and arms, was on the point of leaving the scene to seek medical attention, when we arrived. He was visibly shaken and was unable to answer any, but the most basic questions.
Other eyewitnesses told SNO that the presence of a fire extinguisher would have worked miracles toward saving this man’s livelihood today.
SNO learnt that it is mandatory for all taxi drivers and boat operators to carry a five or 10-pound extinguisher on board. They are of the opinion that this should no longer be a choice to minibus drivers as well, and believe that it is a matter of safety for drivers as well as passengers.