Sixteen persons were killed when a minibus carrying mourners from a funeral plunged off a cliff into the ocean.
In his message of sympathy, Prime Minister Douglas also extended sympathy to the family and loved ones of persons who were either injured, or unfortunately lost their lives as a result of the motor vehicle accident, at Mount Sion in Choiseul.
“During this period of mourning, please be assured of our Nation’s and region’s prayers and support. We are especially mindful of the psychological and emotional difficulties being experienced by survivors of the accident and those family members, friends who mourn the loss of their loved ones so tragically and pray for their continued protection and healing in the fullness of time,” said Prime Minister Douglas to his St. Lucian counterpart, the Stephenson King.
“It is my fervent hope that your nation and indeed, family and friends of the injured, the deceased do not mourn like those without hope, but instead rely on their resilience to rise above their current distress,” said Dr. Douglas.
An Associated Press report from Castries say the dead include an infant, a pregnant woman and the bus driver, 47-year-old Michael Alexander, who apparently missed a turn in the road and plunged 50 feet (15 meters) down a cliff.
Chief Fire Officer Lambert Charles said a young girl who was found alive in the debris died en route to a hospital.
Crews are still looking for a 17th person they say is missing.
Police said they are investigating what caused the Thursday night accident in the southwest village of Choiseul that shocked the island of approximately 160,000 people.
St. Lucia’s Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet, who represents Choiseul in Parliament, described the accident as “a human tragedy of unprecedented proportions.”
All the dead were from the community of Dugard in the village of Micoud on the island’s east coast that is known for banana cultivation, said police corporal Trevor Constantine. One man is believed to have lost three children in the accident.
Charles said bodies were strewn across the beach at the scene of the accident.
Home Affairs Minister Guy Mayers broke the news during a public meeting Thursday night in the eastern village of Dennery. He asked for a minute of silence.
On Friday, both major parties announced they were suspending campaigning for the Nov. 28 general election.
“We pray that the families and our country find strength and courage to cope with this tragedy and hope that we can all unite in compassion and love,” the ruling United Workers Party said in a statement.
Kenny Anthony, leader of the main opposition St. Lucia Labor Party, said he could not find the words to express his feelings.