Fire Service christens new rescue boat

Tristaca Ebanks, Clara Smith and Christine Mitchell christen Rescue Launch 1 with sparkling apple cider, while the fire chief and premier stand at a safe distance. - Photos: Charles Duncan

When they broke a bottle of sparkling apple cider over the new Cayman Islands Fire Service boat, it had already been used in one rescue in the North Sound.

The 32-foot rescue launch is equipped with six emergency life rafts and will be ready at a moment’s notice at the end of the runway in case a plane lands in the sea. But at the beginning of this month, while testing the boat in the North Sound, another boat flagged down the Fire Service officers and pointed them to a group of tourists stranded at the Stingray City sandbar in a disabled vessel.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, speaking at the launch Friday, commended the officers: “I understand that the fire service has also gotten a few things done with fire officers using the vessel to train in saving lives.”

According to the Fire Service, officers got to the boat and were able to take the 10 tourists on board, some elderly and seasick from the choppy waves, back to the George Town Yacht Club where they were met by an ambulance.

The Fire Service's new boat heads out into choppy waters in the North Sound Friday.
The Fire Service’s new boat heads out into choppy waters in the North Sound Friday.

The Fire Service, the premier and staff from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and members of the police marine unit gathered at the Yacht Club Friday to christen Rescue Launch 1.

Fire Chief David Hails said the custom-built launch, made by Connor Industries in Ontario, holds six large life rafts that can easily be deployed over the side of the boat in case of an emergency. He said with increasing traffic at Grand Cayman’s airport, the fire service had to make sure it could respond effectively in case an airplane has to land at sea.

Mr. Hails said government was able to get the boat quickly, with about 100 days from procurement to having the boat arrive on island.

“It was actually on time and quite a bit under budget,” he said.

Vinton Chinsee, with the Ministry of Home Affairs, said the austerity measures of recent years had a significant impact on the Fire Service, with “minimal investment in the service” leading to losing staff and allowing equipment to age without replacements.

The new rescue launch, he said, is part of government’s new push to invest in the Fire Service and make sure they have the staff and equipment they need.

Mr. Hails said the new boat will benefit all three islands. The Fire Service’s Boston Whaler will be sent to replace the boat in the Brac, and that boat, in turn, will be sent to Little Cayman.

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