“I am just thankful that he died in a bike accident and not by a bullet.”
This poignant statement coming from DonnaJean Woollery, the mother of Gladwin N’Tiko (Chops) Smith, 32, the seventh person to die on Bermuda’s roads in 2014.
Mr Smith died during the early hours of Sunday morning after he was involved in a single vehicle collision on Harrington Sound Road.
Ms Woollery, through tears, says she often worried about her son’s safety because while he was not a gang member, he frequented the Court Street area daily.
“I worried about him being shot on a daily basis because of all the craziness that has been going on,” Ms Woollery says of her only son.
“He was a good son. Very quiet and respectful. He didn’t bother anyone and always had a smile on his face.”
But she says, the one habit he could not break was his love of bikes and speed: “From little he loved bikes. But unfortunately he was very accident prone. Last year he got into an accident which left him without much use of one of his arms. But that did not slow him down. Unless you knew him, you would not even know because he adjusted and lived his life like normal. And he still rode bikes.”
Ms Woollery, who lives on Shelton Road, Pembroke, recalls how she found out that her son had succumbed: “I received a phone call from a lady whose husband had lent Chops his bike.
“She said he had not returned it and the Police were asking about the bike. I tried to locate him but couldn’t but didn’t think much of it.
“When I got to work, she kept calling me and that’s when I decided to go and look for him at his father’s house where he lived. Some of his friends were there and they said they had not seen him either.
“That’s when I thought to go to the hospital. When I got there, I saw his father outside.”
At this point, Mr Smith’s father, Arnold (Whitey) Ford had been searching for his son for almost six hours. He says someone came to his door just after two on Sunday morning, banging on his door, telling him he should go to the hospital because his son had been in an accident and it looked bad.
“I got up and went there and they told me that no one by his name had been brought in but that an ambulance had been dispatched. So I waited for it to come back.
“It arrived at 3.45 but it was empty. I decided to go home and wait for him to show up because I assumed he was probably at the Police Station because I knew how he rode. But I could not sleep.
“I got up and went to the Police Station but they didn’t have him either. They gave me the name of an officer to look for at the hospital. When I got there, I found out soon after that he was dead.
“They asked me if I wanted to see him, but I refused. When I went outside to catch my breath, his mother rode up.”
Mr Ford, of Cherry Hill, Pembroke, says while he is not happy with his son’s passing, he accepts it because he knew in his heart that his son would die on a bike.
“It was just a matter of when,” he said matter of factly.
Mr Smith and his father have lived together for the last decade.
“Now it’s just me and the dog,” Mr Ford says as he sits on his son’s bed, shoes belonging to Mr Smith, lined up neatly underneath.
When asked what would be missed the most about Mr Smith, Ms Woollery says: “His smile. I loved his smile.”
She adds: “His three-year-old daughter Monaco will miss him so much.
“He was her lifeline and she was his. Whenever she was here and she heard a bike, she would look out the window and say, ‘Is that my daddy?’ We told her he is gone, but I don’t think she understands, although it seems like she senses something is wrong.”