Family’s grief after death of athlete

Damion Rose was a hard working mechanic and Olympic hopeful

The 20-year-old man who drowned off Public Beach on Sunday was a promising athlete and a competent swimmer. 

Mechanic Damion Rose, who hoped to represent the Cayman Islands in the Olympics as a 400-meter runner, was swimming with his cousin and older brother off Seven Mile Beach early on Sunday morning.  

He swam further than his companions, around 100 yards from shore to a marker buoy, apparently without any problems. But he got into trouble as he attempted to swim back to the beach. 

“He started struggling and flapping in the water. The other guys thought he was joking around but then he started going under and they realized something was wrong,” said Damion’s father Uriah Rose. 

The family is still unsure what caused Damion, who has 19 brothers and sisters, to get into difficulty.  

His stepmother Grace Rose said he had broken his arm playing flag football several weeks earlier. She said he had swam quite far out to sea and it was possible that strong currents combined with the injury had contributed to the incident. A postmortem will be held followed by a coroner’s inquest to determine the precise cause of death. 

Damion, a former John Gray High School student, had just completed the mechanics apprenticeship program at Superior Auto in George Town. He had started a job at Car City only a week before the accident. 

He was made a prefect in the Superior Auto training program and was renowned for his strong work ethic, coming in to help out even during his holidays. 

His evenings were spent on the track working toward his dream of competing in the Olympics. Tyrone Yen, who coached him in youth national programs as well as at the Mustangs Track Club since he was 12, said Damion always gave 100 percent and was determined to progress to senior level competition. 

“He knew what he wanted out of life. It’s a sad situation where his life was snuffed out so early,” Mr. Yen said. 

Mr. Rose, who runs Red Rose Transport, said the large family had been devastated. He said he was very close with his son, who moved with the family from Jamaica at age 7. 

“When he was at primary school, I used to take him his lunch and we would play dominos together, we would play marbles together. 

“Him and me, we like the same foods. We would eat anything – rabbit, turtle, octopus. He always used to say he wanted to eat the same food as his dad because he wanted to be strong. Most of the time, I was cooking, it was for me and Damion.  

“I used to love to cook but part of my life has gone now. Since Sunday, I don’t want to cook no more,” Mr. Rose said. 

He said he was proud that his son had been such a hard worker and a talented mechanic, as well as a popular young man. “Everybody knew Damion, more people knew him than me. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Sunday. People are falling down crying everywhere I go.” 

Mrs. Rose said her son was not outgoing and was always polite and well mannered. 

“He didn’t argue with nobody,” she said, “he did all his chores. Any time you were doing something, he always asked if he could help. He was a good kid.” 

Damion was also a popular member of the WestStar Saints flag football team, playing in the Digicel Summer League. 

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Damion Rose died on Sunday after getting into difficulties swimming off Public Beach. – PHOTO: MATTHEW YATES
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