Daily Archives: June 9, 2008

Shoddy Construction In Barbados: When Does Negligence Become Criminal Manslaughter?

UPDATE: March 11, 2010

Credit where credit is due: the DLP have erected more homes for low and middle income Bajans in the last two years than the Arthur-Mottley crew (or is that just “Mottley Crue”) did in their last 10 years in office.

(Those are my figures – I’m willing to listen to anyone who says different.)

BUT… those new DLP homes were constructed without a mandatory building code because no government has bothered to implement a building code in law for Barbados. We don’t do standards very well around this place.

So we’re going to put this past article up for a few days and let the folks consider all those new homes that the DLP built, and that fact that they were not built to any standard in law.

The government has been of late talking about earthquakes and being prepared to disasters etc etc etc – but it’s all shite talk. There are no building standards established in law in Barbados.

AS our old friend and structural engineer Grenville Phillips II says all the time: “It doesn’t cost more to build good homes, but you have to enforce a building code.”

And Grenville is correct: all you have to do is establish and enforce standards through a lawful Building Code. But as time has shown, the making of such standards is totally beyond the capability of David Thompson, Owen Arthur and Mia Mottley.

Here’s our original article…

There Will NEVER Be A Proper Inquest Into The Codrington Family Deaths

On August 26, 2007 at about 4:25am, one of the many known caves on the island collapsed under the home of a sleeping family. Donavere 30, Cassandra 27, Shaquanda 7, Shaquille 3 and Yashiro 1 were killed when their home was swallowed in the night.

Witnesses state that Donavere lived for hours after the collapse and spoke to neighbours and friends from the blackness. Nothing more was heard from Donavere after a second collapse sent tons more debris into the hole. On an island that is so small, it took five hours for the first emergency response to arrive at the scene.

According to witnesses, at least two weeks prior to the disaster there were indications that something was seriously wrong at the construction site near the Codrington family’s apartment. Cracking appeared in the ground and in nearby structures and the engineers were called in for an assessment. Any truthful inquest will reveal these and other incidents and warnings that happened at the construction site well in advance of the deadly collapse.

Despite the problems, no tests were conducted with modern ground penetrating radar – which would have shown the tremendous danger and the impending disaster. No stop-work order was issued. No precautionary order to evacuate the nearby apartments and homes was issued.

Somebody probably even used the words, “Ahhh, should be OK. Keep working guys!” (The words are a guess on our part, but the fact that somebody ordered the work to continue after the problems were known is not a guess.)

The use of ground penetrating radar would have resulted in stop work order and a precautionary evacuation of residents, but in a country full of caves and voids we didn’t have one. Why Not?

Would A Better-Built Structure Have Survived Long Enough For The Family To Escape?

After the collapse, pieces of the apartment building continued to fall into the hole for the next few days and at one point rescuers demolished the remaining building so they could continue with recovery operations in the area underneath. A few of our readers wondered whether more of the Codrington’s apartment building might have held on longer if it had of been better constructed. Some readers pointed to a distinct lack of rebar steel visible in the photos of the rubble and remaining structure.

As Bajans watched the tragedy unfold they began asking questions – most of which have never been answered, and never will be. We don’t do inquests in Barbados – we pretend to do inquests. We never assign blame or accountability to individuals in Barbados – we say it “couldn’t be helped” or that it was “an act of God”.

Poor God gets blamed for a whole lot in Barbados. Continue reading

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