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‘I am not who I once was,’ says soldier hit by car at checkpoint

A Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier described how his life permanently changed when a car driven at high speed ploughed into him at a manned checkpoint early in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Private Ndavyah Williams said in his victim impact statement that it was “very hard to be truthful and honest with myself, knowing I am not who I once was” as he listed his injuries and the toll they had taken on him.

Private Kirk Wilks Jr was also injured in the incident on the night of June 29, 2020. His statement was not read out in Supreme Court yesterday.

Makhail Saltus, 29, is to be sentenced next week for causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Williams by careless driving, and causing bodily harm to Mr Wilks by driving.

His cousin, Giovanni Saltus, 37, also faces sentencing for conspiracy to defeat justice in the crash at 11.15pm – 15 minutes after the deadline for the curfew that was then in force.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams heard that the cousins’ vehicle was calculated by a traffic collision expert to have approached the regiment checkpoint on South Road, Devonshire, at “a very high rate of speed”.

The car covered the distance between the Tee Street junction at the point of impact in 11 seconds, an average of 100km/h.

But the expert also found that the roadblock was too close to a bend in the road and did not offer an adequate line of sight for “an alert driver to stop travelling at 50km/h”.

However, he said the crash “could have been avoided” if the car had been driven “within the speed limit and with appropriate caution”.

Elizabeth Christopher, counsel for the younger defendant who was at the wheel that night, said a “narrative” had developed after crash that it was “an attempt to run the roadblock – but as can be seen from the expert’s report, it was a different situation entirely”.

Ms Christopher said her client had failed to spot the roadblock and soldiers and initially believed he had struck a stationary object.

“It’s not the case that he intentionally left anybody lying injured in the road. When the situation was described to him, he sat down and took responsibility.”

She added that Saltus had been “trying to be compliant” with the 11pm curfew and “hurry up and get home” when the car struck the checkpoint.

Roadside cameras showed the vehicle leaving Woody’s Sports Bar shortly after 8pm that night and several cameras along its route clocked it travelling at “a high rate of speed”, according to Director of Public Prosecutions Cindy Clarke.

A camera at the Paget stoplights picked up the car running a red light and travelling at speed on the wrong side of the road.

Its speed topped 146km/h as it approached the Tee Street junction with South Road – and the eastbound car then overtook a motorcycle.

The absence of tyre marks on the road at the scene of the crash suggested no braking, the court heard.

On impact, Mr Williams landed on the hood of the car and was thrown into the road.

The car continued and hit Mr Wilks, who was thrown into a roadside hedge.

A witness saw the car reverse, drive around Mr Williams, and continue east.

But the vehicle had to stop three times when its hood popped up – and on the fourth occasion, the motorcycle driver, who pursued it, parked to block the car from moving.

Police arrived and Makhail Saltus told an officer he had been driving.

The car had “extensive” damage to the front, with “apparent blood spatter on the crumpled bonnet and damaged windshield”.

Mr Williams was severely injured and his victim impact statement said that he lived in “constant fear health-wise every day”.

Some surgical implants to repair the injuries may remain in his body for life, the statement added.

“The pain is so much. I hate to talk about it, because I only sound like I’m complaining, and so I keep it all to myself.”

Mr Williams said his injuries and the need for continuing surgery left him unable to see his daughter overseas – while his mother and aunt had used up their savings and holiday time caring for him.

Ms Clarke called for three to six months’ imprisonment for Makhail Saltus, with a six-week to three-month discount for his guilty plea.

She also called for him to be disqualified from driving all vehicles.

She said Giovanni Saltus should be given a conditional discharge for 18 months.

Ms Clarke told the court the island had suffered “a rash of road traffic accidents resulting from reckless behaviour” and that the public had “cried out for such offences to be punished”.

Ms Christopher noted that Makhail Saltus’s partner had just given birth to their baby daughter last week and that he supported his family working as a heavy equipment operator for a construction firm, which included driving.

She added that he was also a respected member of Hamilton Parish Workman’s Club, where he was an assistant coach for the youth programme.

Makhail Saltus asked for “leniency for my newborn baby” and said the crash was “something that’s hung over my head”.

“I apologise to the officers injured, to my parents and to my daughter.”

Giovanni Saltus told the court: “I would just like to say sorry as well to the officers and everybody else that was involved,” he added.

A sentencing date was set for next week.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases.

• UPDATE: The Royal Gazette correctly reported that Giovanni Saltus stated that he was expecting a child. However, we have been asked to point out that the information given in court was incorrect, and we are happy to make this clarification.