Bizarre accident claims a Ghanaian life in U.S
PAWTUCKET, NY -- Early in the last day of his life. John Dankwa complained of pain to his stomach.
Then he fell to the ground, curling into the fetal position and clutching his midsection.
Four hours later, he would be pronounced dead after emergency surgery failed to save him, the apparent casualty of a bizarre traffic accident Saturday at 1 a.m. on Mineral Spring Avenue.
With him died dreams that reached to his homeland of Ghana, in western Africa.
"He was just starting his life out here," said his wife, Beth Phillips. "He was enthused about this country. He has two children in Ghana and he wanted to bring them here, to introduce them to this country, to let them lead a good life here.
"This is so sad because he was doing so much with his life."
Police were called to Mineral Spring Avenue at Bagley Street by neighborhood residents who heard a collision and a loud bang.
Officers Shawn Driscoll and Ernest Pendergrass answered the call, arriving to see Dankwa, 35, of Heroux Boulevard, Cumberland, on the sidewalk behind his 1993 Mazda. Dankwa?s car was smashed against a utility pole.
Rescue workers transported Dankwa to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, where he was immediately admitted to the intensive care unit, trauma center.
The initial report from doctors who began surgery was that Dankwa sustained internal injuries but they did not appear life-threatening, police reported.
By 4:40 a.m. that had changed. Dankwa died at the hospital of a lacerated liver, according to the accident report.
Phillips, a nurse, said she was told that Dankwa?s liver was badly torn and that a major artery was severed. He received 30 pints of blood before he died, she said.
When police learned the accident resulted in a death, an accident reconstruction team was called in to determine exactly what happened.
Kelly Flanagan, 23, of Cullen Hill Road, Cumberland, told police she was in her 1995 Honda, heading east on Mineral Spring Avenue, when she slowed and activated her blinker to turn onto Bagley Street.
Before she could turn, she told police, Dankwa?s car hit hers from behind, swerved to the right, mounted the sidewalk and accelerated.
Dankwa?s car passed Flanagan?s car on the right and rode 40 feet on the sidewalk before hitting the utility pole head-on.
Sgt. Edmund St. Pierre, the accident reconstruction specialist, reported that there were no skid marks left on the sidewalk or the road, nor was there any other indication that Dankwa tried to stop his car before either collision.
Driscoll and Pendergrass, the first officers on the scene, reported that Dankwa said he could not remember what happened in the moments before the crash.
Dankwa was conscious and alert immediately after the accident. Witnesses report he got out of his car on his own power and walked away from the collision before grabbing his stomach and lying down on the sidewalk.
St. Pierre noted in his accident reconstruction report that the steering wheel on Dankwa?s car was bent upwards and slightly to the right following the accident.
Flanagan was also taken to the hospital with complaints of pain, as was William Dailey, a passenger in her car.
Flanagan?s Honda was driven from the scene by an unharmed passenger in her car.
An autopsy is scheduled on Dankwa to determine what caused him to lose control of his car, to verify that the injury to his liver caused his death and that the injury was the result of the accident.
Phillips said Sunday that she has notified his family in Ghana and friends at the Wrentham State School, where Dankwa worked on the direct-care staff and where he studied computers, preparing to enter a nursing program.
"John was an extremely energetic and charismatic person," she said. "Everyone at the Wrentham State School is devastated. He had worked there only a year, but he had already won an award for achievement."
Burial arrangements are incomplete. Phillips said she is trying to find a way to return Dankwa to Ghana for burial, though the cost might be prohibitive.
"It is hard to think about that," Phillips said. "John is a good person.
"This is a tragedy."