Unwilling to believe the love of his life had died in a horrifying accident along the Uriah Butler Highway in Charlieville, Chaguanas, yesterday, 69-year-old Ramdial Baboolal drove from Debe to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) in Mt Hope hoping media reports had been wrong.
His wife, Tara Baboolal, 66, was among two women who died immediately when a Blue Waters truck crossed the median from the southbound lane of the highway and slammed into the PTSC Deluxe Coach they were travelling into Port-of-Spain along the northbound lane. The second deceased woman was identified Judy Clarke, 61, of Sierra Leone, Diego Martin.
Police said a tyre blowout caused a dump truck in the southbound lane to crash into the Blue Waters truck before it crossed the median and hit the bus in the southbound lane. Tara was decapitated in the crash while police say a piece of metal pierced Clarke’s chest.
The accident, which happened around 9.45 am, brought traffic on both sides of the highway to a complete stop for over two hours as emergency first responders rushed to the scene to deal with several others who were injured in the accident. Bleeding, weeping passengers were sent to the EWMSC and the Chaguanas Health Facility for emergency care. In total, 48 people were hospitalised, with seven of them requiring life-saving surgery.
News of the women’s deaths was reported on midday newscasts on television and radio and after hearing his wife’s name, Baboolal left home telling relatives the information had to be wrong.
When he got to the Accident and Emergency department of the EWMSC around 2.30 pm, he met a Guardian Media team who asked him if he was there to see any of the victims from the PTSC crash.
“My wife was on the bus,” he said.
Asked what was her condition, Baboolal replied, “I hear the radio said she passed away but nobody tell me anything, so I came to see if she warded here.”
Accompanied by his son-in-law and brother-in-law Jairam Baliram, Baboolal said he would sit in the waiting area until hospital staff could tell him if his wife was receiving treatment.
Guardian Media journalists then noticed two police officers from the accident scene and alerted them that Baboolal was seeking information about his wife.
Several minutes later, PC Villafana of the Central Division confirmed Baboolal’s worst fear and he stood silently as Baliram asked questions about an autopsy.
Speaking a few minutes after, Baboolal could not contain his grief. He said he and Tara had been married since 1970.
“I was 21 and she was 18, she was the love of my life,” he said before breaking down in tears.
The couple has four children together and seven grandchildren.
Baboolal last saw her when he dropped her in Debe around 7 am to get a taxi to head to San Fernando where she boarded the bus.
“She would always say ‘See you later’ I can’t believe she’s gone,” a tearful Baboolal said.
At the family’s Ramai Trace, Debe home yesterday, granddaughter Rianna Baboolal said Tara left home around 7 am to go to the Land Settlement Agency. She prepared sandwiches of bread and egg for the trip and was expected to take the 8 am Deluxe Coach to Port-of-Spain. Being a pensioner, the bus ride was free.
Rianna said Tara took care of her as a child and treated her with love.
“She loved to quarrel but not in a bad way. She loved us and always wanted things to be in place. She was very organised,” Rianna recalled with tears in her eyes.
When they heard of the bus crash on the midday news, Rianna said they got worried as Tara was not answering her phone.
“We called 103FM and spoke to someone. They put us on to another person who was on the scene. They said they will check on it for us. Afterwards, they told us that Tara Baboolal had died in the crash,” Rianna said.
Wiping away tears, Rianna said her grandfather Ramdial was sitting on a chair when they got confirmation of the death. She confirmed he left for the hospital unwilling to believe his wife of 49 years had died.
Tara’s father Amrood Bone, 88, said he was shocked at his daughter’s passing.
“She was my eldest child. I have ten children, four boys and six girls,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kimaada Clarke, the eldest child of Judy Clarke, told Guardian Media her mother was a woman of God.
Kimaada, who lives at Simeon Road, Diego Martin with her mother and brothers, was too distraught to give further details when she was contacted via phone.
“I can’t think straight right now. I still don’t really know what happened,” Kimaada said.
Reporters: Sharlene Rampersad & Radhica De Silva