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.

Right on cue on Day 6 of the Barbados apartment collapse, then Attorney General Dale Marshall held a press conference and announced the results of any yet-to-be-held inquest. He provided the standard “Nobody is to blame. It could have happened to anyone, anywhere in Barbados” excuse.

And that, my friends, was the end of any serious public examination into the deaths of five of our neighbours and friends.

Barbados Construction Worker Building A Home That Will Murder Sleeping Bajans

Our friend and structural engineer Grenville Phillips II writes Weighed In The Balance blog. For years he has sounded the alarm about the total lack of effective building standards in Barbados. His recent series of articles documenting the dangerous construction techniques used by the majority of Bajan building contractors should have sent government and citizens into action to prevent what will certainly be a national tragedy in the event of a major hurricane or quake in Barbados.

But nothing happened. Thousands or tens of thousands of our citizens will die needlessly due to poor construction practices and lack of enforceable building standards, but neither the BLP nor the DLP government are concerned enough to actually do something.

What has to be done is not rocket science. It does not have to be invented: enforceable building standards exist in many civilized countries.

I merely takes the will and leadership to do something.

Do you see that photo above of the construction worker? That man is bending rebar for a structure and he might as well be pointing a loaded gun at the heads of the children who will sleep in the home he is building. See Grenville’s article Weapons Of Mass Destruction and you will understand.

Damn it… I hate living in a third-world backwater where the elites of government drink champagne on their friends’ business jets, but they don’t care enough about the ordinary people to really do anything to improve the country.

Biscuits and corned beef? Sure! Government make-work projects and give-aways? Sure!

Implement and enforce modern standards in government and business that will allow this country to truly move forward?

Chaaaa! You must be meking sport!


Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Corruption, Crime & Law, Disaster, Offshore Investments, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Real Estate

20 responses to “Shoddy Construction In Barbados: When Does Negligence Become Criminal Manslaughter?

  1. John

    Sure China is a long ways away and sure what Probe International has been saying about the giant 3 gorges dam in that country may be speculation but there are scientists and engineers who believe that what mankind will reap the results of excesses it inflicts on the earth.

    It is claimed that the disastrous earthquake which occurred in China was due to the enormous 3 Gorges dam which started filling in 2003.

    Google Probe International and see what they have to say.

    I have seen an increase in the emails I get from USGS which notify of seismic events throughout the world since I registered shortly after the Brittons Hill tragedy …. thanks Rumplestilskin.

    I love these blogs.

    Barbados and much of the West Indies are located in an earthquake prone area, the boundary between the Caribbean and Atlantic plates.

    Very recently, the number is reducing in this area but it was pretty active after the Brittons Hill tragedy.

    I saw a couple of emails for events in the Virgin Islands over the past few days.

    Caves and voids characterise the limestone cap on which we build.

    The most visible one is at the “BET” Junction at Wildey at the bottom of the hill but they are all over the island in the coral cap.

    They occur at various depths.

    Because of how they were formed, I think their location is predictable.

    That is why I believe that building willy nilly can be distinctly dangerous in Barbados, not only because of safety issues but because the voids allow groundwater contamination to occur too easily.

    I think whoever, or whatever process, allowed the building of the houses at Arch Cot needs to be called to account.

  2. John

    Just looked at my emails and found about 7 notifications of events mainly in the Virgin Islands.

    They varied in size from 3.5 to 4.8, so quite small.

    So much for my comment above on the reducing number of earthquakes in this area!!

  3. Time Will Tell

    Dear BFP

    BFP is swiftly becoming irrelevant….

    Is there anything good, positive, honest or even proportionate about Barbados you have ever commented on?

    Barbados has no history of this kind of tragedy.
    Your importance to our debate is vital, provided you remain objective.

    No room for Monday morning quarterbacks!



    BFP says,

    Irrelevant? Sure… whatever you say. Now, will the Thompson government be charging anyone for any offence to do with the corruption of the past 15 years? Hmmmmmm????

  4. Charles

    In this place it’s what happens to tourists not locals that matters… With Harrison’s Cave a major tourist attraction you would think by now someone would have realised the need to have a trained team and the necessary equipment for the day when the unthinkable happens down there. And it would be useful for the rest of us too!

  5. Red Lake Lassie

    Time Will Tell says that BFP is becoming irrelevant. You wish! Keep on keeping on with your ITAL agenda BFP. Don’t let it rest. You have done more to change Barbados for the good in the last year than any politician or political party. ITAL wouldn’t be mentioned without BFP.

  6. BFP says,
    Irrelevant? Sure… whatever you say. Now, will the Thompson government be charging anyone for any offence to do with the corruption of the past 15 years? Hmmmmmm????

    I hate to burst your bubble but I can almost 100 % assure you by the share extent of the corruption across the board this new Gov’t has NO CHOICE BUT TO SEND SOME OF THESE VAGABONDS TO THE DPP, the PM is a no nonsense person and he has requested more Forensic Audits I think even he is dumbfounded by the number of cases of stealing that he has discovered across the public service, in nearly each and every department of Gov’t there is fraud and stealing, NSC, URBAN, COASTAL, IMMIGRATION, SANITATION, WATER AUTHORITY, QEH, NIS, RURAL, need I mention the 28 CONSULTANTS that were all paid in excess of $ 110,000.00 some of which were being paid to be the voice of the call in shows one idiot Henderson Bovell.


    I fool you not it appears to have been an open Season and a free for all under the rule of arthur and the blp.

    I can say beyond any shadow of doubt, that when I hear the utter disgust when the PM speaks on these subjects of stealing, he is not a happy person and he is not going to sit back and let it pass , he will confront every case of stealing from us the taxpayers and he will almost certainly send all of those involved to the court system, BOOZA, BREWSTER and others like them, load up on plenty toilet paper because you will shortly be needing all you can put your hands on.

    They will face the courts without any doubt,this is no idle threat this is real, the PM is serious about putting this country on the right track and this is his starting point, cleaning up the criminals and crooks like owing and his clan of robbers.


    BFP says,

    We’d be happy if it all comes to pass.

    Oh… who will judge this gang… their old Attorney General and now Chief Justice?

    Of course, Thompson and the DLP will have to prove theft… because it is no offence for any elected or appointed government official to award contracts to companies in which they have an interest. It is no offence for any government official to profit from their office.

    Same with the current DLP government, too… yes?

  7. Red Lake Lassie

    Wishing in Vain say: “We need not deal with HALLAM NICHOLLS, GLYNE BANNISTERS, DAVID SHOREYS, GLYNE CLARKES, OWING ARTHURS, MIA MOTTLEYS that is well documented already.”

    Well WIV, I hate to burst your bubble, but “documenting” what Hallam Nicholls and the rest did means nothing if you can’t charge and convict them and put them away.

    My bet is that Prime Minister Thompson and his people will not be laying more than one or two charges if that and most probably none. as BFP say, who will put them in jail? The same judges that Owen Arthur appointed? His old friend and AG David Simmons? Will Simmons put Arthur in jail? Mia? Hallam Nicholls? Davie Shorey? I don’t think so!

  8. I still want to have some faith in our legal system, I do not really beieve that it is fully corrupted anddistorted as you would have me believe.

    You maybe very surprised who talks when it will keep his behind out of hot water or prison, and we all know that most people would want to keep their behinds out of prison !!!

  9. Lets do like the blind man says, lets wait and see !!!!

  10. Until you sit down and chat with our new PM you may not come to grips with annoyance he feels about the extent of the stealing and the full fledged corruption that the blp encouraged and allowed to flourish under its hand.

    It is worst than many are willing to accept, when the evidence is produced you can make your own decision.

  11. Time Will Tell

    Time Will Tell
    June 11, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Dear BFP

    BFP is swiftly becoming irrelevant….

    Is there anything good, positive, honest or even proportionate about Barbados you have ever commented on?
    The question still stands.
    Have You ?

    Again, you seek to agitate debate, without the benefit of validity.

    e.g. Have you ever highlighted, exposed,educate or perceived this threat?

    Neither did the Government…..



    BFP says,

    Ah,,,, I get it. In TWiT’s world, we shouldn’t talk about anything unless we’ve talked about it before.

    I see.

    Perhaps TWiT could search BFP for the words “building collapse” and let all of us know if BFP and our readers meet his high standards for being allowed to discuss this topic.


  12. Georgie Porgie

    Charles wrote
    In this place it’s what happens to tourists not locals that matters… With Harrison’s Cave a major tourist attraction you would think by now someone would have realised the need to have a trained team and the necessary equipment for the day when the unthinkable happens down there. And it would be useful for the rest of us too!

    Actually as far back as September 1981, Vashti Inniss he first Manager of the Cave who was a trained Public Health Nurse appointed a local doctor to be on call for emergencies in the Cave, and incite and advice was sought from the late Sir MB with respect to the Public Health issues. When Mrs Inniss was removed soon after by the powers that were at the time, further initiatives in this direction terminated. I am not aware if there was any follow up in this area afterwards.

  13. John

    I recall Richard Goddard did some training.

    Think I saw an article in the Nation or somewhere recently about this. Think it was about the time of the Brittons Hill tragedy when caves and caving was on everybody’s mind.

    Will see what I can find online.

    I’ve been through the “emergency exit” of the cave.

    It takes about 3 hours and it isn’t easy!! Alot to be learned about geology down there.

  14. Thistle

    Wishing In Vain: “You maybe very surprised who talks when it will keep his behind out of hot water or prison”.

    Yeah. Right. Then he suddenly “disappears”, or ends up like Pele, or the police officer (I think his name was Jordan?) who was shot to death at his home in Barbarees Hill. No, WIV, you are truly “wishing in vain”, I think. I’m sure we would all love to agree with you, but when, in Barbados, have you ever heard of a Big Up actually going to prison? Mr. Barrow had threatened to do it, but what happened? The FBI came to Barbados and allegedly found evidence of drug dealing among certain Big Up Bees, but what happened? Nada. Remember how Mia outright denied it?

    I agree that it must be a shocking experience for David Thompson to discover the extent of the corruption and I’m quite sure he would like to send some of them to prison, but … no, WIV, ain’t gonna happen here! Fraternity of Masons? Someone much higher up in the chain than even the P.M.? Who knows. Perhaps Barbados’s Pandora’s box will be opened one day and the mess will be so stink that decent people will have to leave the island, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon!

  15. Thistle

    BFP: My comment is still awaiting moderation?

  16. Wishing in Vain

    Thistle, I will continue to Wish in Vain but trust me if serious actions does take effect I will be looking for you to buy me some serious Black Pudding and Souse the next Saturday.

    I really and honestly do expect some serious steps being taken going forward but if these will capture Nicholls and Owing it will be left to be seen, to make an example out of them would be an excellent result.

    Trust me the bold faced nature of their stealing, they may not have covered all their tracks such as with their dealings with VECO and DANOS, so there is still real hope, let us also remember that the FBI are still investigating VECO and there is more to come from that investigation.

  17. Thistle

    Puddin’n’souse, WIV? Yes, please! I hope you win the bet! If not, will you treat me??! Joking aside, I sincerely hope you win.

  18. 168

    we are so callous about everything:

    casual sex -(aids)
    improper pesticide use
    improper buildings
    dusty /musty work conditions
    dirty air conditioners
    improper eating habits
    excessive drinking (stouts and energy drinks)
    minibus and zr behaviour
    lapsed hurricane preparations
    shoddy hurricane shelters

    ——-look we need a dose of adult education
    —we take things a kind of way that is truly amazing

  19. RIP Donavan. Good dude! I remember you from our days at Wesley Hall.