Spate of Holiday Drownings -Renewed Calls for Lifeguards

This year alone, four people have drowned at our local beaches. Following the most recent drowning on Sunday, there have been renewed calls for greater vigilance on our beaches. Increasingly people having been pleading with the government to take seriously the spate of drownings. Among those leading the charge are members of the Saint Lucia Life Saving Association who are calling for “a sustained program of public awareness on water safety” in general. Meanwhile, Saint Lucians and visitors continue to flock to popular beaches like Vigie Beach, Sandy Beach, Sabwisha, Roseau, Cas En Bas, Reduit and Pigeon Point with no signs of lifeguards or even warning signs. Only the ominously invisible warning: “swim at your own peril”.

The above is taken from a STAR Newspaper article published in August 2014 written by Toni Nicholas. As far back as the 80s this Newspaper has been on a relentless crusade for greater safety at public beaches on an island surrounded by water and where more than half of the population cannot swim.

During last weekend’s long Independence holiday weekend four more lives were lost by drowning. Among them, 36-year-old Mervin Darcie of Barre Denis who, along with brother Kervin, went swimming at La Toc beach on Monday February 23. On Wednesday, February 25, his lifeless body was found 300 yards off the coast of La Toc Beach. The Police Marine Unit is continuing its search efforts for the body of Kervin Darcie.

On that same Monday, Mandy Joseph made a report of a missing person at the Anse La Raye Police Station. Joseph stated that her 16-year-old son, Miguel Sealy of Massacre, Anse La Raye, left his residence earlier that day about 3 p.m. to spend some time with a family member on the Massacre Beach, Anse La Raye and up to the time of report had not been seen. On Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at about 12:45 p.m. the lifeless body of Miguel Sealy was discovered in the waters of Anse La Raye by the Police Marine Unit.

Also losing his life at sea was a four-year-old boy at Vieux Fort with a storyline that continues to puzzle many. On Sunday, February 22, 2015 while thousands celebrated Independence Day around the island, officers attached to the Criminal Investigations Department of the Vieux Fort Police Station responded to a report of suspect drowning at Bois Shadon Beach, Beanfield Vieux Fort, at about 2 p.m. It was later revealed that Terrel Joshua Elibox of Augier, Vieux Fort was given a ride by a kite surfer. Whilst riding, he is alleged to have fallen into the sea and submerged. A search and rescue mission was immediately conducted by Police at the time but the body was not recovered.

However, on Tuesday, February 24 at about 6 a.m. the lifeless body of Elibox was found on the Coconut Bay Beach, Vieux Fort.

There have been conflicting reports, however, as to what happened that day to Elibox who was said to have been at a beach picnic with his grandmother and other relatives and friends. There are also reports that the kite-surfer, a Canadian who was taken into custody for questioning, had attempted to come to the aid of the child whom he allegedly witnessed caught up in the strong waves at the beach.

And while investigations are continuing, the lack of provision of lifeguards at popular beaches remains a contentious matter.

A statement from the St. Lucia Life Saving Association following the weekend tragedies reiterates the importance of public awareness on water safety, swimming lessons for both children and adults, and the need to have lifeguards to supervise aquatic activities at popular beaches.

“As an Association we are aware that all drownings cannot be prevented. We are certain, however, that many of the drowning accidents that do take place are preventable and that we can be better prepared to act in the case of an emergency,” the statement reads; further, that “the issue of water safety is one of public safety and communities must seek information on how to reduce drowning accidents.”

The statement signed by president Germain Anthony went on to say,“Parents must protect their children by ensuring that they learn to swim the proper way. They must also be vigilant and supervise their children when near water. The authorities must seek strategies and implement measures that will protect patrons at the beach.”

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