When many Dominicans first learned of the tragedy that occurred near Choiseul, St. Lucia, in which 17 passengers of a bus died after it went over a cliff into the sea, they may have recalled a similar disaster which occurred in Dominica 36 years ago.
On 21 May 1975, an overloaded passenger truck departed from Morne Prosper 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.
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.
The citizens of St. Lucia are going through the shock and sadness that Dominicans experienced over three decades ago.
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:
Vernon Jno. Baptiste