Florida accident leaves Bahamian student paralyzed

Published: February 25, 2004
142

Three other Bahamians passengers injured

Twenty four year old Tavares Brown, a Bahamian student at Florida A&M University (FAMU) was paralyzed on Saturday, after the van that he was riding in overturned.

Brown was one of four Bahamian students traveling from Tallahassee to Pensacola to perform at the Pensacola downtown Mardi Gras parade. The remaining trio also suffered injuries.

Up to press time on Tuesday, attempts to reach family members of any of the four Bahamians involved in the accident proved fruitless, however, the Pensacola News Journal reported that Brown suffered a spinal cord injury in the accident and was the most seriously hurt of the four students. Larry Robinson, vice president of academic affairs at the Tallahassee University also reported that Brown had to be transported to the Intensive Care Unit of the Baptist Hospital where he remained on Tuesday.

According to reports, the van was being driven by Vanessa Clarke, 24 who drove the van off the paved portion of Interstate 10 near State Road 87 around 12:30 p.m. However, when she tried to ease back onto the interstate, she lost control, according to the Pensacola Highway State patrol. The van overturned in the grassy median, ejecting four of the five occupants. Clarke, who was taken to the Baptist Hospital was released on Sunday and cited for careless driving.

Other occupants of the van included: Zesarae Bodie, a 21year old Biology student who was also rushed to Baptist Hospital with a fractured pelvis and broken ankle. She and Brown were flown from the crash by Baptist Life Flight; Kamal Cooper, 21, was reported to be in serious condition Sunday night at West Florida Hospital and Jeanette Oscar, 23 was released from Baptist Hospital after observation on Sunday.

The four Bahamians were members of the “Rhythm Rushers,” a grouping made up of Tallahassee residents as well as students from Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College and FAMU. The Pensacola News Journal also reported that Bodie, a biology and education student, said the group was looking forward to performing at the Mardi Gras parade. “We just wanted to share the culture and maybe attract some Pensacolans to the Bahamas,” she said from her hospital bed.

Bodie was a dancer who joined the group in 2002. She recalled that she remembered little of the crash other than Clarke getting distracted and running off the road. “In the Bahamas, you don’t have interstates,” she said. “So we aren’t really used to them – to driving so fast.”

The Pensacola Journal News further reported that Bodie remembered a Good Samaritan who came up to her as she lay bloodied beside the road. “A lady who was behind us pulled over and came up and was holding my hand,” she said. “She called this morning to say she was praying for me. I don’t know her name, but I’d like to tell her thank you.”

Doctors told Bodie she would be off her feet for about a month. “I just thank God, because I could have been dead,” she said. “I’m only 112 pounds. I’m not too much to hurt.”

Bodie’s mother, Rose Bodie, got a call almost immediately after the crash from someone at the scene with a cell phone.

“They were still there,” Rose Bodie said. “I just said, `Put her on!’ All I heard was, `Mommy!’ and that was it. They had to carry her away.”

According to the Pensacola News Journal, Rose Bodie flew into Pensacola from Nassau, as did the families of Brown and Cooper. Reports also state that FAMU is paying for the families’ lodging in Pensacola, and Patricia Green Powell, vice president for Student Affairs at FAMU, is coordinating relief efforts for the families’ other needs.

The Pensacola News Journal said that anyone interested in donating to the expenses of Brown and the others injured can call (850) 599-3183.