Like so many at the time, Christmas was on the minds of a particular Massade family in December 2016, when one of its youngest members was snatched away, never to be seen again. Lynzie Charles, said to be eighteen by a close relative, had gone out at sea with two other young men. For the trio, it was a common practice to travel by canoe to Martinique overnight to deliver conch (lambi). The story I gathered from those who knew them well, on December 12, 2016 Lynzie and his friends had encountered uncommonly heavy rains and rough seas and disappeared without trace.
Lynzie attended the Gros Islet Infant and Primary schools and later Entrepot Secondary. He was widely known as “Conkles”. By all accounts Lynzie was a promising footballer, good enough to have been chosen to compete in Digicel’s island-wide pre-Kick Start Clinics in 2013, and coming out among the top thirty performers, together with Bradley Cyril who died earlier this year in a vehicular accident.
Curiously, few people in the Gros Islet community remember or are ready to talk about Lynzie’s disappearance. A former classmate speculated that “the sea was rough that night and maybe the boat sank. . . or something. And they were so far out that they couldn’t get help”. Another individual told me the trio was aboard a small boat without the means to contact the coastguard.
Still another Gros Islet resident said: “Some of us believe he was killed. We’ve heard stories that they may have been kidnapped,”—which is why some in the town expect to see their friends again “one of these days”.
But Lynzie’s mother is not quite as optimistic: “Nobody was there when it happened, so I cannot listen to any of these stories. I know my son—and he was a fish! But that night . . . all I can believe is that he drowned.” She paused, as if in deep thought, before adding: “But sometimes I have a little hope and I think that maybe he’ll come back to us.”
She said one man from the fisheries claimed he saw when the three left on the canoe, after much debate over the rough seas and heavy rains. According to her the coastguard had been notified when Lynzie and his friends did not return home. But a search turned up nothing; no trace of their boat, no bodies. Speaking of his friends, Lynzie’s mother said: “When they come by and we talk about Lynzie they just start to cry.” The street corner near the house that was home to Lynzie has been informally renamed “Conkles Street”.
Lynzie’s mom again: “People say I don’t care, but that’s not it. Nobody knows how I feel. They say I don’t talk about it. But I don’t have to come out and say on TV how he was a good boy and all that. He had his good ways and his bad ways, like everybody else. Now my other son goes to school, and they tell him his brother drowned and all sorts of things; but what do they know? When I go to his room, or when I think about Lynzie and start to scream, there is no one to see me.”
Personnel at the police press relations department told me they were unfamiliar with Lynzie’s case. But another cop assured me his disappearance with his crew remains under investigation.