The scene of the accident June, 2010
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The 53 year old man who hit down a woman at the entrance to Wickhams II in June 2010 may have escaped jail time but the victim who was seriously injured plans to sue him in civil court for compensation.
Stedroy Matthew, a native of St. Kitts who pleaded guilty to reckless driving was sentenced today, March 8 by Justice Albert Redhead in relation to the accident involving the victim, Garner O´Neal who is a part time nurse.
Justice Redhead said he will give Matthew closest to the maximum and sentenced him to a one year sentence suspended for 18 months and a fine of $900.00 or two months in prison.
The maximum sentence for the offence is $1,000.00 or two years in prison or both. It was commented in court that the laws probably needs reviewing since the fine is low.
Prosecutor Christlyn Benjamin said the aggravating factors are that at the time of the accident Matthew failed to stop at the point of impact, he was unaware that he hit someone and that the woman suffered serious injuries. She related that the mitigating factors are that he has no previous conviction and no previous traffic infractions and he pleaded guilty.
She noted that the crown was not seeking a custodial sentence and also noted that following the incident for two years Matthew´s licensed was suspended until sometime last year when the High Court lift the suspension.
Benjamin said O´Neal, a part-time nurse, plans to seek compensation in another court.
Matthew´s lawyer Richard Rowe during mitigation said it was one of those instances where he was momentarily inattentive and was not deliberate in being reckless.
He noted that the area where the accident occurred was very dangerous and at the time there were no traffic lights. In relation to speeding, Rowe said it was clear that he was not speeding since when O´Neal came into contact with the safari bus persons were able to bang on the hood to get the attention of Matthew.
The lawyer also spoke to the good deed of his client following the accident, and stated that Matthew took off his shirt and place it under O´Neal after she was complaining about feeling hot; and he got her water.
Rowe further stated that was not an act of an uncaring man, but a man who suffered from a momentarily lapse.
He also noted that Matthew is expected to be sued for compensation for O'Neal's injuries but he has insurance to cover it.
The lawyer also indicated that Matthew was not using a cellular phone at the time of the accident. However, O´Neal who spoke in court today said someone called her in January 2011 and stated that they saw Matthew on a cellular phone at the time of the accident, but she lamented that it couldn´t come into evidence in court.
The visibly upset woman told Justice Redhead that she still has scars about her body from the accident and still undergoes therapy. She said she had four surgeries and was forced to cut off her hair because she was unable to comb it due to her injuries.
O´Neal said it´s unfortunate that the laws are not up to date hence she has to go to another forum to get proper compensation since that court cannot give sufficient compensation.
Justice Redhead asked O´Neal to get rid of her anger since it will help her to heal.
Matthew spoke briefly in court and indicated that he was deeply sorry for what occurred and told the victim that most of his prayers are centered around her and he hopes she finds it in her heart to forgive him. He noted that he has been in the BVI since 1979 and has been nothing, but a law abiding citizen. Matthew said it was accident.
According to facts presented by the crown, on June 14, 2010 around 12.30 pm O´Neal was in the area where the traffic lights are now located along James Walter Francis Drive.
O´Neal stopped to observe the traffic at the intersection at the Tico building. Benjamin said O´Neal saw the traffic was clear.
However, Matthew who was behind the wheels of a safari TX 177 made a left turn into the road and hit the woman on her left arm. The impact threw her to the ground and under the bus.
Benjamin said the woman was being dragged but she managed to hold onto to something under the bus and persons in the area began to bang on the hood of the safari and then Matthew stopped.
The ambulance was called and O´Neal was taken to the hospital. Benjamin said O´Neal was was hospitalized in Puerto Rico for three and half months. She said O´Neal who still undergoes therapy does it on her own sometimes since she is a trained nurse.
Due to the accident O´Neal had many injuries including eight broken ribs, a broken forearm and a ruptured liver.