Former Speaker, fire chief join search review

Former Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence and former fire chief Kirkland Nixon will be the Caymanian ‘eyes and ears’ in a review of police search and rescue capabilities. – PHOTO: BRENT FULLER

Former Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence and former fire chief Kirkland Nixon will join the independent inquiry into the police search and rescue effort for five missing boaters.

The announcement in the Legislative Assembly Wednesday night came after Governor Helen Kilpatrick agreed to a motion, unanimously backed by politicians on all sides, for two Caymanian justices of the peace to be involved in the review.

Mrs. Lawrence was nominated for the role by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and Mr. Nixon was nominated by Premier Alden McLaughlin.

The review will be led by U.K. Coastguard Commander Andrew Jenkins who arrived on island this week and met with Mr. Nixon and Mrs. Lawrence on Thursday morning.

His investigation will look at the police search and rescue effort for five Caymanians, lost at sea, after they did not return from a trip to 12 Mile Bank on March 6. Their capsized boat was discovered the next day, but the three men, Gary Mullings, Edsell Haylock and Nicholas Watler, and two children, Kamron and Kanyi Brown, ages 11 and 9, respectively, were never found.

The investigation will also look at Cayman’s general search-and-rescue capability, including equipment and training of officers.

Precisely what role Mr. Nixon and Mrs. Lawrence will play remains unclear.

Mr. Nixon said he would do his best to help make sure the review ensures the accountability people are looking for, but he referred the Cayman Compass to the governor’s office for more detailed comment on what his role would be.

The governor’s office confirmed the appointments but had no further comment.

Legislators voted after a lengthy debate on Monday to support a private members’ motion, initially put forward by Mr. Bush, but amended following consultation with government, to allow for two local justices of the peace to assist in the inquiry by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Mr. Bush had raised concerns about the impartiality and independence of a U.K. agency reporting to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Mr. McLaughlin said the inclusion of two local JPs would add “Caymanian eyes and ears” to help ensure the credibility of the process.

Mr. Nixon is currently chairman of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority board and previously served as chairman of the National Hurricane Committee during Hurricane Ivan. Mrs. Lawrence has run for political office and has been a teacher and newspaper editor.

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  1. No disrespect to Mrs LAWRENCE, but I don’t understand why Mr Bush would select some like Mrs Lawrence to
    be in volved in this investigation .
    When Mrs Lawrence don’t have seamanship experience and search and rescue operations experience.
    As far as I can see all she would be there for is to agree on everything, and not be able to object to anything for the lack of experience / knowledge .