Justice In Belize
The Tragic Death of Dorian Herrera
Who caused it and who is the victim?
On Thursday morning, November 5th, Consejo Shores resident Gordon Stout was driving his wife to the Cuban embassy in Belize City. They were traveling south on the Northern Highway on dry pavement under overcast skies, almost no traffic, in other words, perfect driving conditions. Near mile 24, close to Biscayne Village, a young man ran from behind a parked truck onto the highway directly in front of Gordon Stout's Toyota Matrix. Impact was instant, unavoidable and fatal. There were no warning signs, no evidence of road work under way, just a truck parked on the opposite side of the road, from behind which Mr. Dorian Herrera dashed to his death.
As Reported On Channel 5 News
Thursday, November 05, 2009
At about ten o’ clock this morning a man from Double Head Cabbage was knocked down and killed. Late this evening a senior citizen of the United States, eighty year old Gordon Stout, who is presently residing in Consejo Shores, Corozal Town was slapped with three counts for the accidental death of twenty eight year old Dorian Herrera. Herrera who was affectionately called “dumb bwai” by friends and family was working on the roadside in Gardenia Village at the time of his death. Ironically, Herrera was placing a cone and a sign to caution drivers to slow down when he was hit by the senior citizen.
Corporal Lincoln Jones, Uncle of Dorian Herrera: “I raised him from about two years old after his mother and father died and he become young man. My mother do the chores at home and I support them financially.”
Jose Sanchez, Reporter: “So he was a good kid.”
Cpl. Lincoln Jones: “Yeah, very good.”
Jose Sanchez: “I understand there was sign he was putting up.”
Cpl. Lincoln Jones: “Yeah, that’s what I understand too. I can’t confirm that but I understand that’s what took place.”
Gordon Stout was rushed over to the Belize City Magistrate’s Court around four-thirty this evening. He was taken into Court number two in front of Senior Magistrate, Dorothy Flowers where he was charged with one count of Manslaughter by Negligence; one count of Causing Death by Careless Conduct and one count of Driving Without Due Care and Attention. Stout was offered bail at five thousand dollars plus one surety of the same amount. But at five p.m., he could not meet his bail and was remanded into custody. Stout however wanted to pay cash but was told that he had to get a Belizean to post bail for him in order to assure the court that he will reappear before the court at his next appearance on the December fifteenth.”
Witnesses to the accident saw Mr. Herrera run out onto the highway, his view to the north probably blocked by the parked truck. The witnesses all believed there was nothing Mr. Stout could have done to avoid hitting the young man. None the less, the police took Gordon into custody and charged him with several serious crimes. They explained the charges are automatic in vehicular deaths and our conversations with the local police and an attorney verify this to be the case. It seems the victims of this type of tragedy are routinely criminalized, incarcerated and placed in financial distress as a matter of policy in Belize. Aside from the indignity of the arrest, the Stouts emphasize that they were treated with respect and courtesy by the police.
Yes, Gordon and Iliana Stout are the victims of this tragic accident. Everyone feels for the deceased, Dorian Herrera. No one wanted Mr. Herrera to die. Compassion for the deceased, however, doesn't alter the basic facts, as born out by the eye witnesses. Mr. Herrera's untimely dash onto the Northern Highway was the cause of this accident, a tragic mistake for which he paid the ultimate price. The Stouts, on the other hand, were simply driving down the highway bothering no one, driving safely, in perfect conditions. They were demonized in the press and on TV and continue to suffer at the hands of the police, the prosecutors and the deceased's family. They are the true victims here!
As you can see from the attached transcripts, the reporting from the local new services was very sensationalized and prejudicial. Did the reporters bother to check the facts? No where do they mention the the Stout's BZ5$ 50,000 Toyota Matrix is sitting unprotected, with a rain washing in through the broken windshield, in the police impound yard. Does anyone in Belize care that Gordon, who did nothing wrong, spent a night in jail, is out $5000 for the bail and an additional $5000 for an attorney! And his costs will only escalate as the deceased's family, and their attorneys try to profit from this tragedy. Mr. Herrera's uncle, police Cpl. Lincoln Jones, has informed the Stouts that he intends to sue them. What for, we can't imagine.
Will justice prevail? Will Gordon Stout have to pay a fine or possibly spend time in prison because someone ran in front of his car? Will any potential civil action against them succeed? No one we know has faced these challenges in Belize, until now. At this point, we simply do not know what to expect. Gordon has asked us at Consejo.bz to chronicle his experiences in dealing with this tragedy, so anyone contemplating a move to Belize will know what to expect should they become involved in a serious accident here. Over the next few weeks we will publish articles describing the accident and its aftermath in greater detail. As the legal process grinds on, we will publish updates.
The next court date is December 15, 2009. Hopefully, this will be the end of any criminal complaint. Only time will tell. Updated after court: Part 2: Accident, Court, Bail, Jail, Delay
More "Unbiased" Reporting by the Belize Media
The Belize Police Department
Crime News 6 November 2009
FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
On Thursday November 5, at about 10:25 am a fatal traffic accident had occurred between miles 24 and 25 on the Northern Highway. Upon arrival at the scene police observed a gold color Toyota matrix S.U.V (LWD-62-08) on the right hand side of the road -- near the vehicle a male person on the ground lay motionless. Initial Investigation revealed that at about 10:00 am on 5.11.09 Gordon Stout, 80 yrs, retired, of Corozal District was driving on the highway from the direction of Orange Walk heading towards Belize City, along with his wife when upon arrival at the aforementioned location he saw a pickup truck parked on the right hand side of the road with a group of men inside. One was standing beside the truck on the left hand side at the back. Upon approaching, the man namely Dorian Herrera, 29 yrs, laborer of Double head cabbage Village, ran quickly across into the lane that he was driving. As a result the victim was knocked down; he received severe head and body injuries and died on the spot. Herrera’s body was transported to the K.H.M.H morgue, he was pronounced dead on arrival. Police have formally arrested and charged Gordon Stout for the offence of Drove Motor vehicle without due care and attention, Causing death by careless conduct, and Manslaughter by negligence.
Centaur Cable Network. Belize News from CTV3
THE BELIZE TIMES
Mexican charged for knocking down man on Northern Highway
Written by Administrator
Saturday, 07 November 2009
Police have arrested and charged a Mexican national following yesterday’s road accident on the northern highway. 80 year old Gordon Stout, a resident of Consejo Shores in Corozal, was charged for knocking down and killing 29 year old Dorian Herrera of Double Head Cabbage village. Stout has told Police he was driving his S.U.V. from Orange Walk to Belize City when between miles 24 and 25 he saw a pick up truck parked on the right hand side of the road. Standing beside the tuck was Herrera who, Stout claims, made a quick run across the road. Stout could not apply the brakes in time and knocked down Herrera.
But according to witnesses, the accident could have been averted. They say Herrera, who had a hearing impediment, had walked on the highway to place a caution sign since he was part of a work crew cutting the brushes on the side of the highway. Witnesses say that even after smashing into Herrera, Stout continued to drive and actually apply the brakes until several yards away. Herrera suffered severe head and body injuries and died on the spot. Gordon Stout has been arrested and charged for a driving motor vehicle without due care and attention, causing death by careless conduct and manslaughter by negligence.
As Reported On Channel 7 News
Road Worker Killed at Mile 24
posted (November 5, 2009)
80 year old American Gordon Stout is in lockdown at the Queen’s Street Police Station tonight after he knocked down and killed a man this morning on the Northern Highway. The victim is 28 year old Dorian Herrera – a deaf mute who was working alongside the highway when tragedy struck between miles 24 and 25. Our team was on the scene.
Keith Swift Reporting,
Dorian Herrera was knocked down and killed at mile 24 on Northern Highway in Biscayne Village. He had just finished cutting grass in the area and in a tragic irony – he was hit while crossing the highway to place this sign on the roadside to warn drivers that more grass cutters would be working in the area.
Paul Bradley, Boss and Friend of Deceased
“It is a sad thing happened to one of my worker. We stopped here with the bush hog on the roadside and I asked him to go and put the sign across the road and when he was taking the sign a vehicle came and knocked him over and the man dead. Actually my back was turned to the pickup and I just told him to take the sign across. When I heard the commotion and I swung around I saw him in the air.”
Dorian Herrera had been hit by this Toyota Matrix with Mexican license plates. It was driven by 80 year old American national Gordon Stout – seen here on the scene this morning with police. The force of the impact from the car launched Dorian in the air. He landed on the hood, smashing the windshield and crushing front right area of the Toyota Matrix.
Stout continued driving an additional 150 feet with Dorian Herrera’s body on the bonnet. He eventually braked and that’s when Dorian was flung to the side of the highway. He died on the spot.
“That boy been around me about six years.”
“I understand he was a hard worker.”
“Oh yes…I lost a good man.”
Paul Bradley who employed Dorian says that while he was on the scene, his back was turned and he didn’t see the accident so he refused to assign blame.
“All I could say is an accident always the look for a place to happen, that’s all I could say. I am a driver myself so like I said we weren’t cautious enough nuh.”
But in Double Head Cabbage, Dorian Herrera’s family is pointing fingers. His sister Tricia Diaz says that her brother, who was mute, probably didn’t hear the car coming but she is sure that the driver saw Dorian.
Tricia Diaz, Sister of Deceased
“I would just want justice served for that person because if you are driving you have to drive with due care and attention. If you see somebody in the road at least slow down, at least slow down to try and not knock that person or try to make that person get out your way. You have to drive for you and for a next person coming behind you and front of you. You can’t just the drive like crazy.”
“He was mute and so could he hear?”
“He mostly goes by lips. He would read your lips and know what you are saying. But he doesn’t hear good. He doesn’t hear good.”
“So he didn’t hear the vehicle coming?”
“No I don’t think he heard that vehicle, he didn’t hear it because he wasn’t hearing good.”
“But you still blame the driver?”
“Well he is seeing front of him. Maybe he (Dorian) nuh the hear but the driver saw him because he is driving. So I blame him to a certain extent because Dorian wasn’t hearing. If he was hearing he wouldn’t have been in that street to get knock down.”
And that may be the ultimate tragedy of this morning’s incident because throughout his life, Dorian Herrera defied his disability.
“He always the work. He is always working. As you miss him, he is telling you, ‘me work, me work,’ he is always working and he is a friendly person. The amount of people who Dorian know, you wouldn’t believe to say he is dumb and thing. But the amount of people who he knows, a lot of people know him. But this morning a real tragedy happened to him.”
A tragedy his family and those who treated him like family will now need to come to terms with.
We note that 80 year old Gordon Stout was driving towards Belize City. He was charged in court this afternoon for manslaughter by negligence, causing death by careless conduct and driving without due care and attention. He was offered bail of 5 thousand dollars but he needed a Belizean surety. He couldn’t find one by the close of business at the Magistrate’s Court today and so he will be held overnight at the Queen’s Street Police Station. Although he is an American national, Stout resides in Consejo Shores in Corozal.
Gordon Stout died on March 25th, 2013 with this case still pending. Almost 3 1/2 years with this cloud over his head. What a complete travesty.