In the remote bush of Beach Bay in Bodden Town, a massive hydraulic clamp eclipses the midday sun for a moment, before swooping down and grabbing the roof and trunk of a derelict Lincoln Navigator SUV. As the rear windshield bursts and sends shards of darkly tinted glass flying, flying insects and other bugs erupt from beneath the vehicle.
With surgical precision, Patrick Rankine, a grab-truck operator with the Department of Environmental Health, carefully pries the 6,000 pounds of soon-to-be scrap metal from between two other vehicles, before hoisting it some 20 feet in the air and then gently lowering it onto the back of a roll-on roll-off garbage truck.
“I’ve been doing this for about 11 years, and I just love my job,” said Rankine. “I’m glad when they call and say, ‘Go pick up a car,’ because that will be one less car on the road or on somebody’s property.”
The renewed focus to clear Grand Cayman’s back alleys and hidden communities of the rodent-infested eyesores has resulted in the removal of hundreds of derelict vehicles.
“I think we’ve removed about 200 cars in the last couple of months,” said Rankine, who on Monday was deployed with his co-worker Roderick Bodden to retrieve the SUV and two Honda Civics from Joshua Hyman’s yard.
“I feel so good that they are gone, and I promise this won’t happen again,” said Hyman. “To me, the [derelict] cars don’t look good, and they harbour the rats and the roaches, as well.”
Despite having removed and crushed scores of vehicles, Rankine fears this team has only made a small dent in what he believes is an island-wide problem.
He thinks there are still many derelict vehicles piled up at garages and other sites, but advises that people who have such scrap cars on their property can “set up an arrangement and get the cars removed”.
Hyman, who is a mechanic, said people who are hesitant to contact the DEH to remove their derelict cars have nothing to fear.
“As long as people go about removing the cars the right way, they don’t have anything to worry about,” said Hyman. “I called the DEH and asked them to come, and they were very friendly to me, and helped me get rid of those cars.”
To remove a derelict or abandoned vehicle, a report and/or request must first be made to the DEH either directly or through the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, who can pass the message on. Once the report/request has been made, a DEH staff member will visit the premises, evaluate the situation and determine if the vehicle needs to be marked for collection.
If the vehicle is determined to be a candidate for removal, a DEH staffer will attach a notice which states the date and time that it will be collected. This gives the owner time to reclaim the vehicle and move it. If the vehicle remains in place after the warning notice has expired, and the owner does not contact the department, the vehicle is then removed and destroyed by the DEH.