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St. Thomas Vendor Killed When Postal Van Backs Over Her

CHARLOTTE AMALIE A U.S. Postal Service van accidentally backed over and killed a St. Thomas woman on Monday afternoon, authorities said.

The EMT’s were providing medical attention to an elderly woman who had been struck by the postal van when police arrived on the accident scene, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

A preliminary investigation by the Traffic Investigation Bureau revealed that the 69-year-old female victim was walking southward out of the Berne’s Alley in the area of Discount Travel when the postal van was reversing southward, according to the VIPD.

“The operator of the van reversed, striking the female and drove over the female’s body,” VIPD Communication Director Glen Dratte said. “The female succumbed to the injuries sustained.”

The Traffic Investigation Bureau is in the process of investigating this fatal incident, according to Dratte.

St. Thomas Vendor Killed When Postal Van Backs Over Her
A sand art by Bonnie Erb memorializing a well-liked fellow beach vendor killed by a postal truck Monday. (Photo by: Bonnie Erb)

The woman, known as “Louise,” was a beloved vendor at Sapphire Beach. Many of her friends related that she was the sociable high point of their day.

Her colorful dresses for sale hung under trees at the beach for as long as anyone could remember. Police were attempting to contact her family on the U.S. mainland before releasing her full name.

Longtime friends and fellow beach vendors Nayda Young and Bonnie Erb said she was the sort of person that felt like family even if you didn’t know her last name.

“If you go to Sapphire and she’s not there, something’s terribly wrong,” Young told the St. Thomas Source. “Anytime I went to Sapphire it was a big hug.”

Business was slow so Louise left work early Monday to run some errands, Erb said.

“That’s what happened. She left and we’ll never see her again,” Erb said. “I do know she was beloved by people on Sapphire Beach.”

Louise’s death was the first of two vehicle-related killings of pedestrians in the U.S. Virgin Islands over a 40-hour period between Monday and Tuesday.

Howard R. Dyer, 79, was killed by a speeding Jeep as he was leaving 2+2 Nightclub in La Grande Princesse in St. Croix on Tuesday night.

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USPS Mail For The USVI Being Stored Outside In Boxes Exposed To Elements

SAN JUAN — The Virgin Islands Free Press started receiving numerous reports from readers in December 2020 that United States Postal Service mail from the mainland destined for the U.S. Virgin Islands is not getting through to the territory after it is delivered to Puerto Rico to be sorted.

PR Informa published pictures on Facebook yesterday showing that a lack of storage at USPS facilities in Puerto Rico is forcing the postal service to store some mail in boxes outdoors under makeshift open-air canopy tents.

“More photos from the USPS disaster affecting Puerto Rico,” PR Informa said. “They simply do not have enough personnel to handle the mail. If you are expecting or have sent a package to Puerto Rico, it will be a while. Many people have already reported lost packages sent months ago. Others have also reported damaged, ripped/open packages as they are leaving them outside because of space shortage.”

USPS Mail For The USVI Being Stored Outside In Boxes Exposed To Elements

Meanwhile, customers of the USPS in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were not kind about the deplorable set up in San Juan.

“Sadly the postal service leadership needs to.go,” Hmg Danielson said. “This is criminal.”

“They need to rent some warehouse space to store the mail first,” Jimi Richardson said. “And then hire as many temporary workers as needed,”

USPS Mail For The USVI Being Stored Outside In Boxes Exposed To Elements

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St. Thomas Man Who Mailed Cocaine Disguised As Candy Bars Gets 1.3 Years In Prison

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A St. Thomas man who tried to mail a pound of cocaine disguised as candy bars to the U.S. mainland last year got just over a year in prison from a federal judge, authorities said.

Kemo Riley, 43, of St. Thomas was sentenced for mailing a package containing cocaine, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said today.

According to court documents filed in this case, Riley mailed a package to a person in New York containing more than 250 grams of cocaine concealed in candy bar wrappers.

The package was mailed from the Ottley post office in St. Thomas. It was seized on May 28, 2019 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in San Juan. The officers in Puerto Rico discovered there was cocaine inside the candy wrappers.

Surveillance video from the Ottley post office showed Riley mailing the package. Riley had been previously convicted for unauthorized possession of a firearm in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy sentenced Riley to 15
months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Juan Albino and Nathan Brooks.

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Directions By Mango Trees, Pink Houses And Holes In The Road Soon To Be In The Past Of Rural Puerto Rico

CAGUAS — Firefighters in this city near Puerto Rico’s capital cheered when they recently got updated maps that include rural neighborhoods, confessing they sometimes had to rely on taxi drivers for directions during emergencies. That’s because more than 300,000 homes on the island have no formal address.

The absence of street names and numbers across the island has long been a problem for the U.S. commonwealth, where Internet map services sometimes fail. Directions can involve a mango tree, or a bakery or a house of a certain color. It’s even a problem in urban areas, like one district of the capital, San Juan, where some people rely on a life-size Bigfoot doll on a balcony as a reference point for directions to a hospital.

It’s not unusual to hear something like: “Turn right at kilometer 58 and make a left after a large hole. If you go past the big breadfruit tree, you’ve gone too far.”

Oso Blanco prison, nicknamed the Alcatraz of the Caribbean where hundreds of inmates were killed, is still used as a reference point even though crews demolished it long ago.

So getting lost has long been an acceptable and occasional fun part of island life for some, but the coronavirus pandemic, a recent series of earthquakes and increasingly active hurricane seasons are prodding authorities to resolve the problem. Without an address, emergency responders cannot find people quickly or deliver basic supplies or medical care when up to 60% of homes in some municipalities lack one.

“If you’re not on a map, you don’t exist,” said Raúl Ríos, a former manager at the U.S. Postal Service who now leads iCasaPR, a nonprofit group that aims to standardize addresses on the island.

Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities and dozens of government agencies still use separate databases that use different names for the same streets or list the same addresses in varying ways, such as 1013 or 10-13. “It’s like the Tower of Babel,” Ríos said.

Four years ago, a young boy died in San Juan because it took an ambulance 15 minutes to find the apartment in a complex that did not have a standardized address, said Nazario Lugo, the president of Puerto Rico’s Association of Emergency Responders who was the city’s emergency management director at the time. And the mother could not go outside to flag down emergency responders because she was following CPR directions from the 911 operator, he said.

The problem is so widespread the government even recommends that a home emergency plan include designating someone to go out to a main road to flag down emergency responders.

As in other cities, officials here in Caguas want to avoid such tragedies.

Over the past decade, more than 100 roads have been named for the first time, but there are many more that need identities and it’s not always easy, said Carmen Díaz, auxiliary planning director. Street names have to be unique and they are limited to 28 characters, so to help neighborhoods come up with ideas Díaz bought books on Puerto Rican plants and animals, novels by famous local authors and even suggested the name of the song “Calma” by Puerto Rican pop singer Pedro Capó.

Díaz said the practice of using landmarks to give directions is not sustainable: “They’ve already changed the color of that pink house or cut down that tree.”

It’s those types of directions that Caguas resident Luz Martínez used to rely on before her neighborhood got street names and house numbers. She even told visitors to ask for her well-known neighbor “Nazario” if they got lost en route to her house.

“It was very complicated,” she said.

As president of La Unión community, Martínez held a vote on potential street names. Among the winners: José Díaz Dede, who ran an informal grocery delivery service, and Antonia Díaz, who campaigned to pave their streets.

José Díaz Dede learned his name won while in a nursing home, but he died before he could see the sign go up. Antonia Díaz, who is 106, still lives on the street named for her.

Not everyone, though, wants to be on a map. Ríos said some people resist because they have added a swimming pool or other feature to their home without permits. Others simply want to live off the grid. And many people have their official addresses listed as post office boxes — with clusters of rusting boxes dotting rural routes around the island — and don’t want to have to switch to a new address.

—DANICA COTO/The Associated Press

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U.S. Mail Will Be Re-Routed Through Miami So Desperate Puerto Ricans Cannot Steal Mail Intended For Virgin Islanders

U.S. Mail Will Be Re-Routed Through Miami So Desperate Puerto Ricans Cannot Steal Mail Intended For Virgin Islanders

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Gov. Kenneth Mapp announced on Thursday that his administration is working to address the severe bottleneck in sending and receiving mail through the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Mapp said his team is seeking to address the postal delays by having mail routed directly from the mainland instead of through Puerto Rico, where letters and packages are currently stuck.

“We have contacted the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the USPS to identify short- and long-term solutions,” said Mapp, who explained that at least two shipping containers of mail are delayed in Puerto Rico.

The governor reported that delays with passport processing are also impacted by the situation in San Juan and are currently being addressed through the U.S. State Department.

A St. Croix resident told the Virgin Islands Free Press that they received a letter this week that was mailed on Sept. 17 — two days before Hurricane Irma.

Another person said that they were told by the U.S. Post Office that they did not have the ability to track lost packages after Hurricanes Irma (Sept. 6) and Maria (Sept. 19-20). They were expecting a postal money order here.

Meanwhile, Delegate Stacey Plaskett, a member of the House Government and Reform Committee, said she met with Deputy Postmaster Ronald A. Stroman last week regarding postal service delays in the territory.

“I met with Ronald A. Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General for the United States Post Office,” Plaskett said. “I was informed by the Deputy Postmaster General that the Postal Service added 200 additional temporary workers in Puerto Rico to sort backlogged mail and daily flights are continuing to move the mail.

“I have received the commitment of the US Postal Service through Deputy Postmaster General Stroman that within the week mail for the Virgin Islands will be sorted and routed through Miami instead of Puerto Rico in order to address the problems expressed by the residents of the Virgin Islands. The United States Postal Service will be using a commercial carrier to route mail for the residents of the Virgin Islands in order to ensure timely delivery.

“The Deputy Postmaster General has acknowledged that it is important for him to be in the Virgin Islands to assess firsthand the damages to our postal facilities in order for him to understand the concerns of the residents of the Virgin Islands. He has accepted the invitation from my office to make a visit to the territories in short order to understand and see for himself the concerns I and the people of the Virgin Islands have concerning our longstanding issues with the mail service. I look forward to his visit to the Territories and working with him to alleviate our problems with our mail service.”