Teacher dies crossing the Philip Goldson Highway

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Two other fatalities resulting from Road Traffic Accidents

By Aaron Humes
Freelance Reporter

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 7, 2019

There were three fatal traffic mishaps over the weekend, of which the most serious was the unnecessary, senseless loss of life of a teacher from Belize City.

23 year old Marilena Mortis was crossing the speedway section of the Philip Goldson Highway from the direction of her mother’s residence on Dolphin Drive, having jumped one of the concrete barriers set in place to divide the widened highway into four lanes and eventually six. She was, according to police, struck by oncoming traffic headed toward Belize City. The driver remains in Police custody up to press time.

The incident is the first fatality to our knowledge directly linked to the ongoing re-construction of the highway, initiated in 2016 after contracts by Cisco Construction were signed in 2015. Safety advocate and first responder to the incident, Philip “Faada” Henry, claims more individuals have been injured or killed because of the ongoing issues with the highway and that the project was not designed with pedestrians in mind.

Cisco’s Contracts Manager, Arsenio Burgos, reported in 2016 when the work began that the first half – from the Haulover Bridge to the Airport Road in Ladyville – would be completed between 15 and 18 months, resulting in a repaved two-lane highway with proper lighting, signs and other features. The second half of the project, going east from the Bridge to the Buttonwood Bay Boulevard roundabout, would take up to 2 years and see the raising of the road by a foot and a half and reinforcement of the road bed and shoulders. The company, he said, aimed to take as little time during the day as possible to avoid massive delays for commuters.

Burgos warned at the time that drivers would have to plan for coming in and out of the City, as the median being put on the highway would prohibit left-handed turns along the route. The design features commuter lanes and bus lanes alongside regular traffic.
But residents of the heavily-trafficked area, which features many prominent businesses along residential areas, say they get around the inconvenience of having to walk down to the nearest roundabout or pedestrian crossing to get over by risking jumping the barriers – which in the case of Mortis, carried fatal consequences.

Officer in Charge of Criminal Investigation Branch, Assistant Superintendent of Police Alejandro Cowo, once again implored users of the road to follow the rules, saying, “The barriers were put there for a reason.”

Reached for comment, the Belize City Council directed the press to the Ministry of Works which is supervising Cisco Construction, adding that they have presented their concerns in that forum.

The project, which includes replacing the Haulover Bridge, will eventually cost up to 85 million U.S. dollars, of which 30 million Belize dollars was borrowed from the Caribbean Development Bank and another 24 million from the OPEC Fund; Taiwan has also chipped in with some funding. Cisco’s two contracts are a total value of 34.4 million Belize dollars, leaving a significant amount of funding remaining, though Senator Dr. Carla Barnett told the Senate in October of 2017 that the various engineering improvements resulted in construction “being even more expensive than was originally contemplated and same will be true of the portion between Belize City and the Buttonwood Bay Boulevard. The reality is that we are building roads in areas that have been traditionally river delta, wet lands, under mangrove, all that implies additional costs. The original estimate for the bridge, the original funds allocated for the bridge did not have designs, at the time the loan was being considered.”

Also on Monday morning, a few hours earlier, jockey of Scotland Halfmoon Village, Belize District, 27 year old Kristian Tillett was driving towards the village on the Burrell Boom Road when he lost control of his Mitsubishi SUV, which flipped several times before coming to a stop. Tillett was flung from the vehicle to his death, while his wife and another woman escaped with minor injuries. The incident occurred around two-thirty a.m. and police say that they have not been able to ascertain what caused the fatal accident.

And up north in the area of San Joaquin, Corozal, a man on bicycle was apparently knocked down between miles 78 and 79 on the Philip Goldson Highway around 1:00 a.m. on Monday. He has since been identified as 61 year old Mexican national Carlos Galvan, a cultivator from Xaibe who had gone out to plant crops on Sunday but failed to return home on time. Police are asking anyone with information to come forward.

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