By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
The civil case against Deputy Commissioner of Police, Miguel Segura, 49, regarding a fatal traffic accident, saw its first call to order last Friday, and Police Commissioner Allen Whylie, this week, described the situation as “unfortunate”.
The family of Succotz market vendor, Yolanda Valencia, 54, is suing Segura, the Belize Police Department and the Government of Belize for damages for the accident that claimed her life, which occurred around 5:00 a.m. on August 16th, 2014. The family contends, based on statements, a video recording of Segura made at the scene soon after the incident, and witnesses who arrived shortly thereafter, that Segura was negligent when he drove the government-issued Nissan Pathfinder into the blue taxi car which Valencia occupied, causing her death.
In the impact, the taxi driver and owner of the car, Yanie Cu, 29, suffered serious head and body injuries, which has left him incapacitated, confined to bed, and unable to work.
Segura, who was videoed pulling up his pants zipper – cigarette in mouth – after getting out of the vehicle he drove, is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol that morning.
Attorney Kareem Musa, who is representing Guadalupe Valencia, the mother of the deceased, explained that Segura is being sued for driving drunk, while the government is being held partly responsible because the accident involved a vehicle it issued to Segura. Tests taken that morning confirmed that Segura’s blood alcohol level was indeed above the prescribed limit.
“Our contention is that on that morning Mr. Segura was under the influence of alcohol, which caused him to veer on to the left hand side of the highway, which was the right hand side of Yanie Cu. He was the driver of Miss Yolanda Valencia, who was a passenger that morning. He drove into their path and there was a collision which resulted in the death of Miss Yolanda Valencia…On that morning Mr. Segura was driving a government issued motor vehicle and thus the government, in the event we are to succeed in our claim, would likewise be liable for anything that Mr. Segura may have done in their vehicle,” Musa explained.
The Valencia family is suing for damages, to be determined by a formula derived by the court, based on Valencia’s life expectancy, and considering that she was fully capable of continuing to provide for her family, and that she was the sole breadwinner of the household (including three children), and for the family’s suffering and funeral expenses.
“Miss Yolanda was the bread winner for the family; she used to take care of all the household and medical expenses for Guadalupe Valencia, so there is a financial loss that has occurred as a result of this tragic accident, and that is what we are seeking damages for”, Musa told reporters.
Musa said with surprise, that government has disclosed the file with all the evidence against Segura, and as far as he can see, its contents are very damning against him.
Justice Shona Griffith adjourned the matter because the attorney for three other claimants, Phillip Palacio, asked the Court to remove him from the record, as they now seek a new counsel for the next trial date on February 15th..
Meanwhile, at a press conference this past Monday, Police Commissioner Allen Whylie told reporters that the criminal case against Segura has taken long to be called up because there are a lot more cases awaiting trial dates, which are set by the court. The charges against him include: ‘manslaughter by negligence’, ‘causing death by careless conduct’, ‘driving without due care and attention’, ‘negligent grievous harm’, ‘driving with alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit’, and ‘failing to alter direction to give way’.
Whylie said Segura is still the deputy commissioner of police, even though he was suspended and eventually interdicted, on half pay, from police duties. He added that Segura, no longer has any policing powers, until the criminal case is completed to determine his future with the Department.
At the time of the accident, Segura, who had just been promoted to Deputy Commissioner and transferred from Belize City to Belmopan, was driving the pick-up truck towards his house in Benque Viejo town when he slammed head-on into the taxi in which Valencia was heading to the San Ignacio town market to sell her goods.
In the aftermath of the accident, 17 persons – 16 from Succotz Village where Valencia lived and one from Benque Viejo, where Segura is from, were charged for organizing and taking part in a riot on August 19th, in which they blocked the highway and set tires on fire, demanding that swift action be taken against Segura, a police officer who had a remarkable record prior to the accident.