Schoolgirl collapses with heart attack in bus

Crew ignores pleas to take victim to hospital
By Mirudhula Thambiah

Anne Madushala Natalie Peiris, at 17, was the soul and spirit of her parents Sunil and Kumudini, and brother Ashane of Kandawala, Negombo, when her sudden and untimely death on Monday (20), left them devastated and in the depths of depression, unable to come to terms with the irreplaceable loss.
It was not only her death that has shaken the family, but also the callous, insensitive and inhuman circumstances under which she died.

Natalie, who was suffering from a congenital heart disease, had fallen inside the bus and passed away when the driver had applied the brakes suddenly, but the bus driver and conductor had refused to rush the child to hospital, while other adults in the bus too were unmoved.

A young life lost: Natalie

It was her friends along with some other school children who stopped the bus and rushed Natalie to hospital, where she was pronounced dead on admission.

Negombo City Coroner, Dr. Siri Jayantha Wickremaratne told the Sunday Times that though the driver was not responsible for the death, as it was confirmed that the child had died of a heart attack, the driver and the conductor are duty bound to get the girl to hospital.

Natalie had received treatment for her congenital heart disease from Lady Ridgeway Hospital and the doctors pronounced it cured. However, at the time of her death, she was not receiving treatment anymore because doctors had said that, by age 18 she would recover.

“The driver or the conductor cannot be blamed for the cause of death. Sometimes the victim would initially need medication. Then the driver and the conductor are duty bound to take the patient to hospital,” the Coroner said.

“It is definitely the negligence of the driver and the conductor for not taking the victim to the hospital on time. Their aim was to collect passengers, with no consideration for the patient,” he said. “I told the bus driver and the conductor they could have at least taken the patient to the police, while it isn’t even a kilometre to the hospital from the point at which the child fell,” he added.

He said he had recommended to the police to arrest them. “The negligence of the driver and the conductor should be highlighted in this incident. This could happen to another ‘Natalie’. If in some other instance, a person falls seriously ill, there could be a loss of life due to negligence and carelessness,” he said.

“In this situation, as Natalie’s friends were students without any guardians nearby, the other adults should have helped the students out. It is important that the police take legal action against them,” Dr. Wickremaratne said.

The police have arrested the driver and the conductor of the bus and released them on police bail because death was due to a heart attack.

A grieving father looks at some her
schoolbooks.Pix by Sanka Vidanagama

Western Provincial Council Passenger Transport Authority Chairman Piyasena Dissanayake said that under the Motor Traffic Act, and even in the licence, it is mentioned that, in an emergency where a passenger takes seriously ill, or is seriously injured, the driver and the conductor have to take the patient to the nearest hospital. In this instance, it’s negligence. Under the law, the police must take them into custody.

Natalie was a first-year Advanced Level Commerce student at St. Anne’s College, Kurana in Negombo. She was a bright student who had secured six ‘A’ passes and two ‘B’ passes at the Ordinary Level exam.

“My daughter was the joy of our family, always smiling, dispelling gloom wherever she went. But now, our lives seem meaningless. My adorable daughter was very clever and scored high grades in her studies. Natalie’s death has taken away the blessing she was to our family. I’m devastated and depressed and have no idea of how I will get over this loss,” Mr. Peiris told the Sunday Times, a day after the funeral.

On that fateful day, as usual, Natalie went to school with her brother, on their father’s bicycle, and would return home with her friends by bus after tuition classes. After school, Natalie was going for tuition by bus with her friends. The bus was crowded and the students were standing. Suddenly, the driver applied the brakes, and Natalie was thrown on the floorboard.

Natalie’s brother Ashane said that around 2 p.m. the family was informed that Natalie had taken ill and had been admitted to hospital. The father had immediately rushed to the hospital, while Ashane and the mother had followed a little later.

“When my mother and I reached Negombo hospital, we saw my father and the other villagers crying. My mother asked my father whether my sister was seriously ill. My sather said Natalie had passed away. We were stunned, I’m still shocked, I can’t bear this loss,” Ashane said.

“The bus driver and the conductor are at fault for not taking my daughter to the hospital promptly. They were inhuman. Even the passengers in the bus had only shouted, but no attempt was made to stop the bus. Only the students were able to stop the bus. This society has become very irresponsible. Even if the bus driver and conductor are arrested, nothing would be gained, because I’m not going to get my daughter back alive,” Mr. Peiris said.

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