Curious spectators looking over the cliff on the Morne Prosper road where the accident occurred. (New Chronicle, 24 May 1975)

Today over three decades ago Dominica suffered its worst road tragedy when a truck plunged over a precipice in Morne Prosper.

On 21 May 1975, an overloaded passenger truck departed from village with some 35 pilgrims aboard, bound for a Pentecostal “Christ is the Answer” crusade at Windsor Park in Roseau. Minutes later it got out of control on the hill before a sharp bend on the Morne Prosper road and shot over a precipice.

Twenty eight men, women and children were hurled to their deaths.

Throughout the night and the next day, police, firemen, Defence Force personnel and volunteers searched for victims among trees and branches on the cliff face. Bodies were loaded onto trucks and taken to the Red Cross Headquarters on Federation Drive, Goodwill, where they were laid out for identification and preparation for burial.

It must be remembered that in those days there were no funeral homes and burials had to take place within 24 hours of death, if not earlier. Prisoners worked feverishly all day to make enough coffins out of whatever wood was available.

The following afternoon on 22 May, two huge funerals were held in Roseau, one at the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the other at the Pentecostal Church.

The corner and memorial on the Morne Prosper road today. Photo by Lennox Honychurch PhD

Individual graves could not be dug in time so excavating machines dug out two long trenches, one in the public cemetery and the other in the Catholic cemetery, to lay the coffins and then covered them all together.

One of the survivors is often seen in Roseau today asking for assistance; he is tall, has one leg, wears locks and walks with crutches.

As many as nine members of the Deschamps family died on that night, including the truck driver, Lennox. The list of victims as published in the press at the time was as follows:

Magdalene Deschamps
Ivinia Deschamps
Paulina Deschamps
Everad Deschamps
Claudia Deschamps
Cynthia Deschamps
Lennox Deschamps
Isaline Deschamps
Orius Deschamps
Marvline Isles
Casimir Isles
Desmond Isles
Valda Isles
Lindy Isles
Gwendolyn Isles
Lambert Opha
Matilda Opha
Agatha Timothy
Mona Timothy
Reginald Timothy
Norwills Joseph
Utina Charles
Vernon Jno. Baptiste
Joania Maxime
Sonia Jean-Jacques
Steve Bruno
McLean John
Mary Joseph

The memorial

Bodies from the Morne Prosper tragedy laid out at Red Cross Headquarters, 22 May 1975. (From New Chronicle, 24 May 1975

Battered bodies from Morne Prosper accident at Red Cross Headquarters, 22 May 1975. (Photo from New Chronicle, 24 May 1975)