When a tragedy occurs, a natural reaction is to look for reasons … then, failing that — to look for scapegoats.

This is precisely what we see taking place in the case of the five boaters who went missing at sea last Sunday, March 6, and who are now presumed to have died. Unfortunately, a significant number of people in the community have determined to turn this occasion of mourning into a rallying cry against the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, who, in their efforts to locate the missing boaters, appear to be deserving of praise, not condemnation.

Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the missing boaters, particularly the parents of 11-year-old Kamron Brown and 9-year-old Kanyi Brown.

Why did this tragedy happen? We have no adequate answers. But, based on the facts we do have, we can tell you this much: It wasn’t the fault of police.

It is most regrettable that some of our colleagues have abdicated their duties as responsible members of the media by stoking emotions of anger, resentment and vengeance, and directing them against the police. They should remember that a journalist’s obligation to the community is to inform — not to incite.

Some have alleged that police were reluctant to launch a search immediately upon learning of the missing boaters because boat operator Gary Mullings (the uncle of Kamron and Kanyi) was well-known to law enforcement as a major drug trafficker. Others have accused Police Commissioner David Baines of not valuing Caymanian lives, generally.

The evidence at hand does not support either of those vicious conjectures. Rather, all indications are that the police response was professional, appropriate and effective — although the results were not what anyone would have wanted.

Let’s quickly review the time line of events. More details are contained in today’s story and in previous articles from the past week.

Sunday, March 6, 3 p.m.-4 p.m.: A fisherman spots Mr. Mullings’s 28-foot Panga-style boat around six miles off the coast of Grand Cayman, with only one of its two engines operating. Weather conditions are worsening.

3:41 p.m.: A cellphone on the boat experiences a “catastrophic disruption.” Police believe this is when the boat may have overturned.

11:57 p.m.: Police are notified of the missing boaters. At this time, Commissioner Baines is not on duty; he does not learn about the missing boat until Monday morning. Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, who is a Caymanian, makes the (correct) call not to deploy the police helicopter or marine vessels for a variety of reasons, including the broadness of the potential search area, limited helicopter capabilities, rough seas and extremely poor flying conditions.

Monday, March 7, 8:30 a.m.: Following investigations that narrow down the search area, police mobilize boats and aircraft.

10:33 a.m.: The police helicopter spots the capsized boat. There is no sign of debris or the missing boaters.

Tuesday, March 8: The boat is recovered by police. Throughout the remainder of the week, police, volunteers and extra-jurisdictional agencies continue searching for the missing boaters, without success.

After drawing fire on the radio, in the blogosphere and from Opposition politicians, Commissioner Baines asked Governor Helen Kilpatrick to set up an independent review of the police response. She agreed.

Now, the police aren’t perfect. Investigators may find potential areas for improvement in regard to this particular situation. In any process of split-second decision-making amid a complex series of unknowns — things can and do go wrong.

That being said, Commissioner Baines is confident that the investigation will exonerate the actions of his officers. We share that confidence, and we support our police.

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  1. Really sad to see people whipping on the Commissioner of Police – David Baines. He is an outstanding man in many ways and got the pleasure of meeting him with his lovely family once. Certain people in the LA just want to be rid of him and are stirring up the masses to get rid of him so they can sleep better at night. This is not right and I agree the list of shortcomings hurled against the CoP/ police force is utter nonsense. God bless you Commissioner Baines and keep up the good fight for Cayman!

  2. A terrible tragedy. But one that could have been avoided.

    They were only 5 miles offshore.

    Were there lifevests and other safety equipment on the boat? I have heard no.

    Why didn’t the boaters phone someone and say that they were struggling home on one engine and if they didn’t arrive before 4pm please call the police.

    Why did the family wait till midnight to sound the alarm? Surely they were expected home well before then.

    Did the boat that saw them struggling with one engine offer assistance?

    I am sure being guys they didn’t want to worry anyone and instead tried to tough it out. With tragic results.

  3. While I am not saying who is to be blamed for this tragic accident .
    we have to remember who has the responsibility in the event of a accident , the person who is in charge of the car / boat / air plane / vehicle has the responsibility to keep their vehicle safe and out of danger , but we know that all human are subject to make mistake .
    After a mistake is made then it turns into a accident, then we have to depend on first emergency teams , if they do not respond in time, then we could have lost of lives .

    If we look at the first report , Sunday 6 / 3 /2016 3:pm – 4 : pm . A fisherman reported that a 28 ft boat had lost one engine and weather is getting worse. Who did the fisherman make this report to ?
    Why at 3 : pm – 4: pm Sunday 3/6/2016 that no action was taken to not even ask the fishermen to help the disabled boat , or even ask the fisherman if he could give a present location of the disabled boat .

    If we look at this situation on Sunday , was there even any contact made with the disabled boat to really know what was their situation ? no , who’s fault is it at this point ?

    I think the ball was dropped at sunday At 3 pm – 4pm until too late in the night .
    I think that there’s enough blame to go around , but I think that the police department has the biggest .

    I think that the Commissioner of police has the responsibility to ensure that the citizens of the Islands are kept safe and protected at all times .

    ***Editor’s Note: Police did not learn that the fisherman had spotted the vessel Sunday afternoon until they conducted investigations Monday morning. ***

  4. Cayman Compass , my point in my comment was that the police was aware of problems starting to develop from Sunday 6/3 / 2016 between 3pm – 4 pm , why didn’t the police take action then , that could have prevented the tragic .and lost of lives .

    ***Editor’s Note: Police were not aware of the missing boaters until near midnight Sunday. Police did not speak to the fisherman who spotted the troubled vessel until Monday morning.***

  5. This certainly was a terrible tragedy, but was it not an avoidable one?. I am not a seaman but I spent a lot of time sailing and racing small sailboats. The type of boat involved does not seem appropriate with it’s low gunwhales, for offshore fishing trips miles from shore in rough weather, there is also some doubt that life vests were carried and whether there was any bailing system on board.
    Due to the tragic loss of life it is only right that we have an independent review of the response by the rescue services, but it’s remit should also include advice on essential boat safety requirements.

  6. Cayman Compass , I know that the police learned about the missing people and boat around midnight Sunday , but who received the call from the fisherman on Sunday about the 28 ft boat losing one of the engines and the weather getting worse on 6 / 3 / 2016 about 3 pm – 4 pm ?

    ***Editor’s note: The fisherman did not call the police when he saw the boat operating on one engine. Police did not learn about the fisherman spotting the vessel until the next day, Monday morning.***

  7. Then there should be some kind of disaplinuary action taken on the fisherman that knew all this and didn’t say anything untit the next day , but offered no help in the small boat situation , knowing that they lost one engine and the weather getting worse . I think it is a rule of the sea / ocean that when one is in danger or in distress , and one don’t offer or help that person could be held liable .
    I think that this is a common courtesy that we should know while fishing and boating, because we never know when we might need help on the ocean .

  8. Ron. I agree that the fishing boat should have offered aid but we don’t know if they did or not. They may have been waved off.

    The take away lessons from this tragedy are:

    Don’t take a small boat out in rough weather.

    Always have the right safety gear.

    If things go wrong don’t be too proud to ask for help. Even if all you say is, “I think I’m OK and I will phone you when I return by no later than xxx pm. If you don’t hear from me by then, alert the marine police.”

    Tell people where you are going and when to expect you back. Especially if going offshore. Ask them to call for help if they don’t hear from you by xxx time.

    Always have communication equipment to hand and ready to us. Phone, radio. Preferably in a waterproof container.

    Some 30-odd years ago my own life and that of my family was saved by an alert person who saw our small boat in trouble and raised the alarm.
    A few months later, in similar circumstances, a similar sized boat was not so lucky and the tourist family who had rented it were lost forever.

    This taught me a lot of respect for the ocean.