Brush with danger
College student tells how he and six others became marooned by flood waters
Members of the rescue team during the early part of Thurday’s attempt to save the group of seven<strong id="strong-1">.</strong>

PORTO BELLO, St James — “It could have happened to anyone,” said 22-year-old Bertram Calvert of Thursday evening’s brush with danger.

He, his 19-year-old sister and five friends had to be airlifted to safety after flood waters left them marooned in this Montego Bay community.

On Friday, the young man and his mother, Angenel Powell, sought to explain what decisions led up to incident that raised many eyebrows as it came mere weeks after two members of another family drowned in the city.

Calvert explained to the Jamaica Observer that he often goes for a swim in the river during the summer when the taps run dry. Thursday was special as the outing was a way to spend time with his younger sister and friends before he leaves for a work and travel trip this Saturday.

“I know that people will [ask] why were we at the river while it was raining and all of that. It is just a situation where we were not prepared for or we weren’t aware of the environment. So, it took us by surprise. It could have happened to anyone,” stated Calvert.

He said they got to the river at 10:00 am and decided to leave soon after 2:00 pm when they noticed the water was becoming rough and the sky bleak. But a sudden gush of water left them marooned on a patch of land.

Calvert told his mother, who called him on her way home from work, that they were stuck and she called the police. The group members were about a 12-minute walk from the main road and the rescuers had trouble finding them. It was about 5:00 pm when they were finally spotted, but the rescuers had no way of getting to them.

By then Powell was also at the scene.

As she waited for her children’s rescue, she was struck by how quickly things had changed from that morning when she gave them permission to go for a swim. When it began to rain where she was, she checked on them but it was still sunny where they were.

As she waited, she tried to keep it together so her children would not panic. She watched as her son led the group in song and prayer. They appeared in good spirits though the waters were rising around them.

“I prayed for them before the emergency team arrived, just to give them a sense of ease,” said Calvert who is a second-year hotel and resort management student at the University of Technology.

He has been a Christian for more than seven years.

He and the others were finally rescued by members of the Jamaica Defence Force, with support from firefighters on the ground. A grateful Calvert was overjoyed to see his mother when the aircraft touched down in an open lot.

The mother and son have heaped praises on everyone who played a role in the rescue.

Their ordeal took place on the same day the St James Municipal Corporation recognised rescuers who saved Berris and Shannon Walters from flood waters that claimed the lives of 12-year-old Jennel Walters and her 68-year-old grandmother Beryl on April 19. The corporation also that day officially ended its search to recover the elderly woman’s remains.

Anthony Lewis

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