US officials decline to review missing boaters search

The boat on which the five missing boaters had been aboard is towed back to Grand Cayman Tuesday by a marine police vessel. - PHOTO: RCIPS

Officials with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation-related accidents in the U.S., declined to conduct a review of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s search and rescue operations for the five people who went missing at sea in early March, according to the governor’s office.

The boat on which the five missing boaters had been aboard is towed back to Grand Cayman Tuesday by a marine police vessel. - PHOTO: RCIPS
The boat on which the five missing boaters was towed back to Grand Cayman by a marine police vessel. – PHOTO: RCIPS

Three men, Gary Mullings, Nicholas Watler and Edsell Haylock, and two boys, Kamron Brown, 11, and his brother Kanyi Brown, 9, went missing on March 6 while they were on their way back from 12 Mile Bank. Police say they did not hear of the missing boat until late that night and did not send out search units until the next morning, prompting anger from the family and calls from the community and politicians to know why it took so long for police to respond.

Gary Benham, head of the governor’s office, said they approached the U.S. investigators based on a recommendation from the U.S. Coast Guard. He said the U.S. officials did not say why they would not conduct the review, but said a separate request has gone out for another organization to conduct the independent review.

Mr. Benham would not say who had been approached as a second choice for the investigation, but did say, “It will be an organization that can credibly review a search and rescue operation.”

“It’s not gone away, we’ve not forgotten about the review,” Mr. Benham said.

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“The governor is committed to a credible independent review and making the results public,” he said.

The actions of the police in the case led to opposition leader McKeeva Bush calling for an independent meeting to consider a private members’ motion in the Legislative Assembly. He called for an inquiry “to determine the facts of what ensued on Sunday, March 6, 2016, and surrounding matters connected to the disappearance of the five individuals, including an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old child.”

“The recent disappearance at sea of five persons was not handled with [the] efficiency and promptness that is expected,” Mr. Bush writes in the motion.

The opposition called for an emergency meeting this week to hear two motions, but Premier Alden McLaughlin said last week that members of the ruling government will not attend.

“Government is not going to agree to a meeting,” Mr. McLaughlin said, and without the government members the Legislative Assembly would not have the 10 members present to make a quorum and conduct business.

The opposition motions call for an independent inquiry and for a “lack of confidence” vote in the police leadership. It was announced last month that Police Commissioner David Baines will leave his post at the end of May.

In a press release announcing Mr. Baines’s departure, the governor said, “The recent barrage of unfair criticism and defamatory comments has undermined the Commissioner’s authority to the extent that his leadership of the RCIPS is no longer tenable.”

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  1. If some people want to take down the commissioner of police, the police Helicopter and 911 operator, because of whatever happened to the fisher men, then my suggestion is why would they want to take down the whole Marine and police force too. This doesn’t seem right to me.
    I have spoken with at least three professional fishermen who have some very pretty interesting things to say as to why the police Helicopter, police marine boats and others could not save those people. I am saddened about what took place, because at least two of them were my close friends, but what I understand happened was just nature making another claim unavoidable by mankind.