News

Titchfield students grieve loss of schoolmate

BY EVERARD OWEN
Observer correspondent

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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PORT ANTONIO, Portland — Grief hung heavy in the air at Titchfield High School yesterday morning as students and teachers mourned the death of 13-year-old second form student Pranjal Jasti Kumar.

The teen was the only fatality when a minibus, overcrowded with students from his school and Port Antonio High, plunged into a ravine after failing to negotiate a corner at Black Hill on the northern coastal highway Monday afternoon.

Police report that the other 20 students, as well as the driver and conductor, were injured and hospitalised.

Yesterday, Titchfield High Principal Richard Thompson remembered Pranjal as a “very brilliant” and “promising child”.

He said that on the day the boy died he had been interviewed by Titchfield's quiz team coaches as the school started preparations for this year's Schools' Challenge Quiz.

According to the principal, there were 19 other Titchfield students on the bus. As such, school administrators spent Monday night “trying to make contact with parents and guardians”.

“We got through with some. We tried to get information concerning the injuries and they range from minor cuts, bruises, broken limbs, whiplash, back injuries, and some still undetermined. Some are to do further tests to determine their injuries,” the principal said.

“We had to call the school together this morning to make them aware of the situation. The students and teachers are really grieving. It is a very difficult period for us. We have experienced death at the school before, but this one is hard,” Thompson said, his eyes filling with tears.

“I just hope and pray that we will get over it. The Ministry of Education Region Two has reached out to us and has sent a trauma team here talking to our students in small groups. I have not managed to speak to the parent of the child that we lost. I have made several attempts to call but I got no answer,” he said.

“There is a lot of anxiety, people are still in shock, people are angry at the transportation system. The question students are asking: why is it that a bus that is supposed to carry 12 or 15 people was allowed to take that many? I don't even know,” he said.

Tricia Thompson, a teacher at the school, encouraged the students to share how they were feeling.

Senior guidance counsellor Patricia Salmon offered similar advice to Pranjal's classmates. “Express how you feel. Write and talk about the good things that you remember about Kumar,” she said.

Students placed flowers where he sat in the class and some wrote messages on the whiteboard, including “You will be missed”, and “You are a legend.”

One parent, Andrea Terrelonge, told the students: “Try not to let them pack you up in a bus or taxi to take you home like sardine. You are paying them, so if you don't go they won't get paid. We have to take a stand. If we don't, nobody will.”


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