Questions are being raised as to why the Cayman Island's Marine Unit was not available on Good Friday after a distress call was made from a sailboat during the annual Easter Regatta event.
Allegations are that no assistance was rendered after distress boaters contacted 911 on Good Friday with 7 souls on board; although being within half a mile north of the Stingray City sandbar.
We understand that the race committee only contacted 911 only after they were unsuccessful in reaching the Marine Unit by phone. The George Town Police Station advised them it would be best to contact 911; given that they received no response from the Marine Unit. However, contacting 911 appears to have been of little assistance either.
Exclusive CMR reports are that a 911 call was placed for a sailboat that was in distress during the annual regatta race. The race started around 8:00 am Friday morning; with nine boats and one additional boat that started after the sailing vessel radioed into the regatta committee.
The call was made during the annual Easter Regatta sailboat race on Good Friday. However, after the callers were on the phone for some thirty-five minutes and it is being alleged that no government rescue vessel was dispatched. The sailboat had 7 persons on board including a child. The boat had no radio contact and no assurance of a working engine. They had been adrift half a mile outside the reef.
A passing fishing boat was finally able to render some assistance to the distressed sailboat.
The concerned citizen reporting the matter noted that:
“A shame our 911 response could not dispatch anything within 40 minutes of distress call. I’m not saying 911 did not follow protocol, but there was never a confirmation that the marine unit was going to launch.”
Questions are being asked about the availability of the marine unit and unconfirmed reports are that the VHF radio channels were not being properly monitored and phones were not being answered. There have been concerns raised that on the 4-day long Easter weekend more marine support should have been in place; especially knowing the annual event was taking place.
“I can't understand why the waters were not being patrolled especially in that area given this longstanding event”.
The round the island Easter Regatta has been a tradition for over 50 years and occurs each Good Friday. Boats typically leave the main channel from 7:00 am – 10:00 am. They traverse around the island by going past East End and then return around 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm at Sunset House in South Sound. The race is run by the sailing club in partnership
The first Easter race was held on Easter Monday, March 20, 1965, off the Beach Club Colony and was organized and run by the Cayman Islands Hotel Association.
Cayman Marl Road has reached out to the Marine Unit for comment on the matter.
The police have responded with the following information:
With respect to your query below and your website article, the RCIPS refutes the criticism of its marine response and offers the below:
Significant planning went into the resourcing for the long weekend on the part of all emergency responders, especially the Joint Marine Unit. The JMU was scheduled to cover the busiest periods during the day and the evenings until 10PM.
Unlike the organizers of the power boat race, “The Challenge” on Sunday, where we were informed and supportive arrangements from our side were made well in advance, the Sailing Club did NOT notify either the Marine Unit or Port Authority in any way regarding their event.
For any such event it is the responsibility of organizers to always put contigencies in place such as marshals or boats capable of rendering emergency assistance, as well as notify the two main marine departments. In this case neither of these was done.
When reporting for duty at 10am JMU officers learned that a sailing vessel’s mast had broken off in North Sound earlier that morning. JMU responded and confirmed that the vessel had been assisted by two other vessels and towed back to Governor's Harbour. JMU officers also followed up with the owner to ensure his welfare and establish the cause of the problem.
Organizers of boating events such as these always must:
Ensure that the proper authorities are notified, and; Ensure that vessels capable of rendering towing assistance are involved in the event and ready to respond. Some organizers even go as far as having medical personnel on board these assistance vessels, which is recommended.
Criticizing the JMU and emergency services for lack of support regarding an event which was not properly organized has no foundation, especially when the most basic communication to the two most critical marine departments, JMU and the Port Authority, was not undertaken.
Everyone must take responsibility for their safety out on the water, and that is doubly true for organizers of events bringing several people out on the water.
The RCIPS JMU and other emergency responders always respond as quickly as possible to situations on the water, but boat captains and marine sport organizers must do their part and ensure that proper safety precautions have been put in place.