Brake failure on 'widow-maker' mountain road led to death of four Grand Rapids missionaries in Haiti – MLive.com

UPDATE: 'No logical explanation of why,' Bishop tells hundreds gathered to remember Grand Rapids missionaries
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A full-time Haitian missionary from the U.S., who lives about 4 miles from the mountainous road where several Grand Rapids parish members were killed Friday, called it a "widow-maker."
"It's hellacious, horrible," Yvonne Trimble said of the treacherous path many Haitians travel by mule or on foot.
Trimble, who spoke Saturday, Jan. 12, while back in the states to visit family, has worked in Haiti for about 35 years and lives there along with her husband, Joel Trimble. The couple are originally from upstate New York.
She learned through social media posts of a vehicle that ran off a mountain road that leads to Seguin on Friday, Jan. 11. Four people — Matt Kutsche, Mary LaPonsie, and Jim and Rita Cwengros – on a missions team from Holy Spirit Parish in Grand Rapids died from injuries suffered in the crash.
This image shows a picture of some of the mountain roads leading up to Seguin from Port-Au-Prince, in Haiti. While these paths are foot paths, others are open to vehicles. Four people from Grand Rapids were killed on a missions trip as the traveled through the mountains in this area to Seguin.
Related: On church humanitarian trip to Haiti, four from Grand Rapids killed on narrow mountain road
Parishioners are shown through a window hugging Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 at the Holy Spirit Parish. Four West Michigan residents who died on humanitarian trip to Haiti. (Sally Finneran | MLive)
Theresa Patterson, co-founder and executive director of the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas, a Catholic charity that runs an inn for missionaries in the Port-au-Prince district of Delmas, spoke to the Associated Press about the accident circumstances.
Patterson said the West Michigan group was traveling in a Toyota Landcruiser that had just taken a sharp turn when its brakes failed. The vehicle, one of five traveling in a caravan carrying the team members, crashed through an iron barrier and plunged into a ravine, the AP reported.
The four Americans inside were taken to a hospital in nearby Jacmel. Some died in the hospital, while others were pronounced dead at the scene. A driver and interpreter, Martin Glisil, was seriously injured and hospitalized, said Bertony Domond, director of the Matthew 25 inn for missionaries.
Trimble spoke of her sadness over the "senselessness" of the deaths. While much of the public transportation in the U.S., like taxi services, are heavily regulated when it comes to maintenance, services in Haiti are much different, she said.
Accidents often result from problems with tires or brakes, Trimble said. Vehicles she has seen sometimes are not fit to take on mountain roads.
Trimble said many Haitians travel the Seguin route by mule or on foot because of a lack of transportation and because of traveling dangers.
Parts of the road have no guardrails and it has many sharp turns as it winds through mountainous terrain. Much of it is gravel.
"If you get too close to the edge, it can fall away," she said, estimating drop-offs are anywhere from 500 to 1,000 feet. "It's absolutely one of the most dangerous areas."
Patterson said the bishop in Jacmel was trying to get clearance to transport the bodies back to Michigan in the next day or so.
A prayer service is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Holy Spirit Parish, 2230 Lake Michigan Drive NW, in Grand Rapids. Bishop Walter Hurley is expected to attend as members gather to mourn those lost in the tragedy.
Remaining members of the Haiti missions team are reportedly traveling back to the United States in a corporate Amway plane. They are expected back in the states at some point on Saturday.
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