Weekend of National Mourning declared in St Lucia
The St Lucian Cabinet has decided to hold three days of mourning for the 17 victims of Thursday night’s tragedy.
CASTRIES, St Lucia, Friday November 11, 2011 – The St Lucian government has declared three days of mourning in the aftermath of Thursday night’s vehicular accident that claimed the lives of 17 people, including children.
The decision was taken by Cabinet, which met in emergency session to discuss the tragedy in the southwest village of Choiseul.
Flags on government buildings and business places will be flown at half mast during the entire weekend.
And, Sunday would be observed as a National Day of Remembrance. A church service will be held in the afternoon.
“During this weekend all political and public social events will be suspended. Government calls on all patriotic Saint Lucians to observe fully the weekend of mourning as a mark of respect for the victims of this painful tragedy,” a government statement said.
“The Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the entire government extends heartfelt condolences to the families, relatives and friends of all those who lost their lives as a result of this most tragic occurrence. This is indeed a dark day in our history.”
PM Stephenson King was among the many who visited the scene of the accident.
The tragedy occurred when a mini bus, on its way from a funeral, plunged 50 feet into the ocean.
Authorities are trying to determine what caused driver Michael Alexander, 47, to miss the turn and veer over the cliff.
Three children and their mother were among the dead, reports said.
An initial assessment confirmed that 13 died immediately after the accident and another succumbed to injuries at hospital.
Unconfirmed media reports said up to 19 may have died.
Earlier today, psychologists met with students at a primary school where three of the victims attended.
Education Minister Arsene Vigil James said the “very grave” accident was not “heard of in the history of transportation in St Lucia.”
The government said it had begun putting measures in place to support and comfort the bereaved.
“The Ministry of Education has taken steps to make counseling services available to the students of the affected schools. Through the Division of Human Services, arrangements are also being made to make such services available to the affected households, families and communities,” the Cabinet statement added.
Leader of the St Lucia Labour Party Dr. Kenny Anthony said it was difficult to find the right words to “express our individual and collective pain and to comfort those who are in grief.”
“Last night, I spoke to a father who lost three children. Understandably, he was totally devastated. Today, I learned that the mother also perished. It was so very difficult to console him,” he said.
“The deaths do not belong to the families alone. They belong to all of us. For this reason, we must grieve as one family and one nation.”
Caricom Chairman, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas has extended condolences to Lucians.
“During this period of mourning, please be assured of our Nation's and region's prayers and support. We are especially mindful of the psychological and emotional difficulties being experienced by survivors of the accident and those family members, friends who mourn the loss of their loved ones so tragically and pray for their continued protection and healing in the fullness of time,” said Prime Minister Douglas to his St. Lucian counterpart.
“It is my fervent hope that your Nation and indeed, family and friends of the injured, the deceased do not mourn like those without hope, but instead rely on their resilience to rise above their current distress.”