In the wake of a frightening car accident in which a 16-year-old St. Johnian narrowly avoided severe injuries, her mother and friends are questioning V.I. Police Department reaction and inaction.
On Saturday evening, January 26, Jessica Samuel, a junior honor student at Gifft Hill School, was driving toward Cruz Bay when her Suzuki Sidekick was struck by an oncoming pickup truck on Centerline Road.
The pickup truck collided into the Suzuki, which was carrying Samuel and two friends, and sent it crashing on its side. The vehicle skidded to the edge of the hill and lodged in a tamarind tree, according to the victim.
Samuel was treated at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center and the R.L. Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas for an extensively injured arm and wrist before being released on Sunday afternoon, January 27. The other two passengers were treated and released at MKSCHC.
No Adults Around
VIPD officers visited the teen’s home on Monday afternoon, January 28, where they recorded her account of events regarding the accident.
Samuel’s mother was off-island at the time and there was no adult around when the VIPD officers took her statement, the teen explained.
The two other passengers in the vehicle, who are both teenagers as well, also gave police reports without being in the presence of adults, according to Samuel’s mother, Celetha Walters.
“The two young people there with Jessica, police had them give a report but there were no adults around,” Walters said. “They said they were so frightened and terrified they didn’t even know what they said.”
According to preliminary reports, the pickup driver, whom VIPD officers did not detain, seems to be the party at fault, explained VIPD
Deputy Chief Darren Foy.
Initial Reports Show Truck Driver at Fault
“The information which I got from the responding officers indicated that the Suzuki the young lady was driving came into contact with a male driver in a small pickup truck,” said Foy. “According to our preliminary investigation, the truck was in the middle of the road. Right now it seems the truck made contact with the Suzuki and caused the accident.”
There was no indication that the pickup truck driver was under the influence of alcohol and after giving a statement to police officers, he was not detained, Foy added.
Police continue to investigate the accident and — although they have not ruled anything out — have not issued a citation to the driver of the pickup truck, explained the VIPD deputy chief.
“The case is still under investigation but our preliminary findings indicate that the pickup truck driver might be at fault,” Foy said. “Whatever citations will be given, will be decided after the investigation is completed.”
After Samuel’s mother returned to St. John on Wednesday afternoon, January 30, she had difficulty finding out the status of the investigation into her daughter’s accident. Walters also questioned why police didn’t administer a sobriety test to the pickup truck driver.
Witnesses Say Truck Driver Was Drunk
“Every witness that I talk to stated the guy was drunk — stone drunk,” said Walters. “The wrecker guy who moved the vehicle, when he got there he said the guy was drunk. The police hear all that and they don’t arrest him or even give him a sobriety test.”
Besides not issuing a sobriety test, VIPD officials didn’t even bother to check if the pickup truck was insured, according to Walters.
“I’ve heard that the man is an illegal alien and that the vehicle had no insurance,” she said. “So what should I do as a mother? I don’t know what to do so I’m turning to the Tradewinds so the people of the Virgin Islands know what is going on.”
Walters contacted VIPD officials who did not share any information with her.
“I spoke to the deputy chief and he told me, ‘well ma’am it’s still under investigation,’” said Walters. “But they didn’t arrest the other driver and they didn’t do a sobriety test on him. I’m not leaving like this — I’m going to get a lawyer.”
Since the other driver had no insurance, Walters is worried she can’t afford her daughter’s medical bills.
“I’m a mother struggling,” she said. “How am I going to pay these hospital bills. How am I going to take care of Jessica?”
“It’s so hard,” Walters continued. “I am trying to ask around for help just to take her to the doctor.”
Walters attempted to obtain a copy of the police report on the accident on Thursday, January 31, but was told that none existed, she explained.
Foy did not return St. John Tradewinds phone calls requesting comment on the status of the police report.
In the meantime, a frustrated Walters is concentrating on her daughter’s health.
“I am hurt, confused and bewildered,” said Walters. “This man almost killed my daughter and the other two young people and then he walks free — that is unfair. I just want to take care of my child.”
Additional Support Needed
While Walters was off-island a number of friends came to Samuel’s side and ensured she was taken care of until her mother returned, explained friend and St. John School of the Arts Executive Director Jan Kinder.
“Everyone is pulling together for her,” said Kinder. “It’s really beautiful. Deverell Alfred was an angel and was in the hospital with her all night.”
Samuel could use additional support from the community, Kinder added.
“She is a very talented and wonderful student of the arts,” said Kinder. “She is a sweet girl and such a talent and any support the community can provide this child would be very much appreciated. Any help would be a blessing for this girl who has so much potential.”
Call SJSA at 779-4322 for more information about how to help.