Expert: Barbados Apartment Collapse Deaths Were Caused By Gross Negligence. Why No Coroner’s Inquest?

Family Of Five Died - But No Inquest!

Prof. Hans Machel: Family Of Five Died - Nearby Construction Could Have Triggered The Collapse

UPDATED: August 13, 2010 – Approaching the Third Anniversary of the Arch Cott cave-in deaths

Cover-up by Government, Police & Coroner continues

“There is nothing that better illustrates the rot of corruption that infests our country than the fact that a young family of five died due to criminal neglect – and there will be no inquest.”

Now that former Attorney General Dale Marshall is in opposition, he’s incredibly vocal about the need for Government transparency and accountability. When in power though, he and his Barbados Labour Party used every trick in the book and then some to keep Bajans in the dark.

Today as we approach the third anniversary of the Arch Cot building collapse that killed a sleeping family of five, we remember that before the bodies were cold, Dale Marshall held a press conference and announced that the deaths were nobody’s fault, that it could have happened to anyone.

And that, my friends, was as close to an inquest as the political and business elites would allow. The people who died were nobodies, ordinary folks of no means or connections.

The people associated with their deaths are members of the business and political elites. Therefore, no inquest. It’s that simple.

Do you remember the dead? Their faces? Their names?

For the next two weeks let’s remember the victims and consider how they died as best as we can. Let’s remember the ongoing cover-up and the determination by Dale Marshall, Mia Mottley, Owen Arthur, David Thompson and Freundel Stuart that the mass death of five ordinary Bajans was nothing more than a regrettable inconvenience to be forgotten as soon as possible.

Five dead in one preventable happening. Lots of evidence of negligence, incompetence and deliberate criminal acts – but no inquest called by the BLP or the DLP in three years because they chose to protect their fellow elites instead of doing their duty for Barbados.

Our leaders are corrupt, uncaring bastards who NEVER hold fellow elites accountable for anything. Barbados deserves better…

Original article as first published January 16, 2009…

Cover-Up By Barbados Government, Police & Coroner

Professor Hans Machel, a specialist in earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta, Canada, says that the Arch Cot apartment collapse that killed five of the Codrington family was caused by “gross negligence” of people who could probably be identified by a properly-conducted inquest. He said that Barbados Government officials and other people could be held responsible for what they did or failed to do. Professor Machel spoke last Wednesday night at a meeting sponsored by the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

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.

Could Donavere have been saved if the Barbados Fire and other Emergency personnel had acted more quickly? Could Donavere have been saved if our emergency services were better equipped?

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. Some person made the decision to continue with the construction. One rumour says that a big government official was constructing a day-care center.

Any truthful inquest will reveal these and other incidents and warnings that happened at the construction site well in advance of the deadly collapse.

Attorney General Dale Marshall Announced Who Was Responsible Before The Bodies Were Cold – “Nobody Is To Blame…”

Started Cover-Up

Started Cover-Up

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 – until the accusations of Professor Machel on Wednesday.

As Bajans watched the tragedy unfold back in August of 2007 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.

Demand A Public Inquest!


Further Reading

Nation Newspaper: Negligence Caused Arch Cot Tragedy

Barbados Advocate: Wrong Site!


August 31, 2007 – Barbados Apartment Collapse – Day 6 – All Five Bodies Now Recovered – Attorney General Announces Results Of Not-Yet-Held Inquest… Really

August 30, 2007 – Barbados Apartment Collapse – Day 5 – Two Bodies Recovered, Mother and Son

August 28, 2007 – Barbados Apartment Collapse – Day 3 – Damaged Building Knocked Down, Work Continues

August 28, 2007 – Barbados Apartment Collapse – Thank You To The United States Of America

August 27, 2007 – Barbados Apartment Collapse – First Response Of Barbados Rescue Team Took 5 Hours! (Newspaper Report)

August 26, 2007 – Brittons Hill Barbados – Apartment Building Collapse Into Known Cave – Family Of 5 Trapped – US Miami Dade Rescue Team Goes To Work

From the Barbados Advocate (reprinted because they destroy their online archives)

Wrong site!


Professor Machel says rock at Arch Cot like ‘crumble cake’

THE house which fell into the cave at Brittons Hill in August 2007, tragically killing a family of five, should have never been built on that spot.

Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta in Canada, Hans Machel, made this assessment during a lecture held at Solidarity House on Wednesday night called, “Caves of Barbados and Elsewhere – Wonders and Dangers Underground”, where he described the incident as “gross negligence.”

“It doesn’t matter if it went down after five, ten, or fifteen years, it should not have been built there in the first place,” he stated.

In fact, he revealed that the house was built on a “myriad of pieces of stick coral rock, that are basically bonded together very weakly by sand.”

During his informative lecture, Professor Machel described the formation of caves and the corrosive processes that can make coral stone, which he says resembles Swiss cheese, weaken over time.

He then turned his attention to the tragic incident at Brittons Hill, alluding to a geological map of the area, which shows the nearby cliff face and Government’s photogrammetric map dated 1975, which when juxtaposed, showed the huge quarry in the lower terrace in front of the cliff face.

The professor said he was also made aware of a spring that at one time flowed from the east to the west, in close proximity to the apartment block. From all of these maps and local accounts, he concluded that someone must have known of the cave on which the house was built.

Professor Machel, who acquired a piece of the rock from “ground-zero” (as the scene of the tragedy was called), showed via multimedia presentation that it crumbled with little force in his hand. Persons in the audience were given an opportunity to scrutinise the rock after the lecture.

He explained that the stained and discoloured rocks on the site are evidence of the areas that were open to the elements for some time, while the rocks that were white showed the only areas that were keeping the cave together and subsequently collapsed.

“In principle it was not close to the cliff face… there are places where the cliff face is extremely hard and can carry a lot of load.”

“There is a very large cave, and it was known for at least two generations. So I am giving this two thumbs down. It was heavily jointed, it disintegrated into big blocks and the blocks themselves are very brittle, they are crumbling.

“The thickness of the roof of that cave would have been perfectly sufficient if the rock was hard and had a lot of strength, but it doesn’t, it’s like ‘crumble cake’.”

He suggested that the collapse on August 26 only needed a trigger to cause the devastation.

“It is no accident that this happened during the rainy season, in August, never mind if it was a dry or wet August, but it was the rainy season. There was a lot of water at Brittons Hill, it was jointed, it was weak and then it takes a bit of a rattle…” he said. This, he said, could have been compounded by accounts of nearby construction that could have also acted as a trigger for this collapse.

Noting that there are several other caves across the island, he advised persons to determine the geology of the area, fault lines and if there are caves. He noted that there are companies that provide imaging techniques in Barbados such as Ground Penetrating Radar, which could protect an investment and save lives.

The lecture was sponsored by the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. (JH)


Nation News: Just A Matter Of Time – August 28, 2007

Ralph Adams, a structural and civil engineer, said that the building collapse at Arch Cot, Brittons X Road, St Michael, was bound to happen at some point.

Adams, who was on the scene offering advice from Sunday, said the neighbourhood knew about the existence of a cave and still allowed people to build on it.

“It was just a matter of time before it was a disaster,” Adams told the Nation.

When asked about the actual size of the cave, he said it was quite big and had two cracks.

“There were two fault lines through the roof of the cave. One of them is exactly where you see the building split now, but it extends further under that apartment block, it extends across the road to the junction and it extends nearly to the front door of the house on the other side of the road and halfway under the house to the north,” said Adams.

Mouth closed

He said the area was surveyed about a month ago and the cave let go [collapsed] on the fracture.

“The areas to the west have now fallen in, the original cave mouth is now closed, the rock is fractured and it looks as though it will fall out to the west. There is also the business below the cliff that is under threat.”

Adams said he was aware of planned construction at the rear of the apartment but whether or not the work had begun, the cave would have still given out because water was also weakening the area.

“There are four storm drainage wells hooked into the corner adjacent to the building, and they are degrading the rock. The surveyors surveyed it prior to their doing work next door and it already had fractures through the roof of the cave.”


Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Corruption, Disaster, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

40 responses to “Expert: Barbados Apartment Collapse Deaths Were Caused By Gross Negligence. Why No Coroner’s Inquest?

  1. Hans G. Machel

    Hallo everyone,
    As an early riser, it is is me, of all people, who gets to write the first comment.
    While I very much appreciate the swift and prominent coverage that my lecture from Jan 14 2009 receives in Barbados Free Press (as well as in the printed media), the foregoing BFP article needs correction in one point: I did NOT put blame specifically on “Barbados Government officials” in my lecture. Yes, there was gross negligence, but I do not know by whom. As I said in my lecture, culpability is for the lawyers to find out. They should ask questions such as: who granted a permit for the ill-fated house to be built? Or, was permit denied and the owner had the house built anyway? If so, why was construction not halted as soon as officials found out that it was underway? Did someone get paid to keep quiet about a denied building permit? Was a permit even applied for? Was the owner of the property made aware of the cave or of a previously denied building permit? As we can easily see, who is culpable shifts from question to question and from answer to answer, and more questions can be asked. I am certain that the answer to the key question: “Who is to blame” (and who should go to jail) is ‘out there’. So, yes, there should be an inquiry, and it should be honest and impartial. Until this is done, I am not prepared to blame anyone specifically.
    Hans G. Machel


    BFP says,

    Hi Professor. Yup, we meant your statements about the Planning people but we agree it is unclear so we will change it.

  2. Barbados the Beautiful

    One thing is true here in BIM. We never blame and we never even try to learn from our mistakes and we never listen to people like Prof Machel who have something to say that might help.

    Has anyone ever taken a look at some of our building codes which allow building on caves? How about buildings built where or how they will be seriously damages by hurricanes? How about paying no attention to the fact we are poisoning our own soil ?

    How about making a list of things that need to be looked in to?

    One year into the DLP administration with a Prime Minister who should no better things are not even being looked at much less done. The others in Parliament in a daze.

  3. Anonymous

    I wonder who else got a house sitting on a cave, with approval from Town Planning??

  4. 199

    4 hours to the arrival of ANY emergency-service?!! Bajans, tell me it was n’t so!!

  5. Government Official To Blame

    Professor Machel say that the govmnt officials might not be to blame. There might be other peoples true. Like the engineer who inspected the construction site the week before the murders and say nothing to anyone. Or maybe he did say something.

    We need an inquest.

  6. Adrian Hinds

    We bajans practice a culture of hushup n’ shutup.

  7. 45

    Not only is an inquest in order, but it’s findings must be made PUBLIC IN IT’S ENTIRETY.

    We have too many “inquests” then the public is no wiser.

  8. Hants

    Between 1975 and 1985 I submitted and got approval for several houses and a commercial building in Barbados.

    There was no requirement by Town Planning to do bore hole testing.
    Prehaps new regulations should be enacted to require that all houses and buildings are constructed on safe foundations.

    In Barbados when you are building a house, you layout the “foundation” on the ground and dig until you get to hard rock.
    You do not check to see if you are on top of a cave.

    Let us hope a law is enacted requiring borehole testing before any building is constructed in Barbados.

  9. Anon

    How much is borehole testing going to cost?

  10. Government Official To Blame

    No bore hole testing and no ground penetrating radar testing already cost five innocent lives.

  11. 199

    Did the Minister proceed to the scene the moment he heard of the accident with all due haste and took charge of operations? If not, why not?? I think that I should want to if I’d been the Minister!!

  12. PiedPiper

    There are a number of things about this tragedy that are puzzling, not the least of which is the fact that there hasn’t been a public inquiry. Not once have I seen details in any media sources about who was constructing a day care centre. Any number of people living in Arch Cot would have seen surveyors, construction crew and possibly even the person responsible for the project. Was this to be a private day-care centre or government subsidised centre? In any case, there are people who know, yet, that information has not been forthcoming. Have people been given incentive to remain silent or are the media suppressing this information? Is there any sort of investigation being done by either government or police services? You know, Thompie is a well travelled man and knows how things operate in the rest of the world and believe me, in the rest of the world this tragedy would be a very big deal and heads would roll. A Coroner’s Inquest would be held as well as possible criminal charges by the police and those responsible would be held accountable. I would hate to think that Thompie is not taking action because those responsible are friends, family or big-ups that he is afraid to take on. I hope he realizes that inaction on his part, taints the image of Barbados as a progressive and democratic county. One of the many responsibilities of politicians is to ensure that social justice is upheld, something that is sadly lacking in Barbados.

  13. Hants

    This tragedy should be properly investigated.

    The family left behind should be properly compensated to ensure surviving children are looked after.

    In a “perfect world” bore hole testing and ground penetrating radar testing would be mandatory to obtain planning approval to build.

    However cost may be prohibitive for the average Barbadian so this could be subsidised by government.

    I am surprised that Banks and Insurance companies in Barbados are not making bore hole testing a requirement before giving mortgages on new houses.

  14. Government Official To Blame

    The cave maps and surveys are like gold now. Some places are on thin thin “ground” and the maps are being kept secret until inside people sell their land and homes.

  15. Adrian Hinds

    WasN’T that house build over 20 years ago? And why until this day no one including BFP does not want to take issue with the construction going on behind the Apartments?

  16. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Barbados: Collapse Caused by Negligence

  17. The Scout

    If you are in Britain, what do you know about the ambulance service in Barbados? Shut Up Fool.

  18. The Scout

    Barbados is limestone country, it is almost impossible to know where every cave is. maybe we can get underground engineer 199 to do a cave map of Barbados. I mean a precise, up to date map. He is British trained, therefore an expert.

  19. The Scout

    You’re a jerk. Please keep this for MODERATION too

  20. Sargeant


    A Coroner’s Inquest would be held as well as possible criminal charges by the police and those responsible would be held accountable
    I agree an inquest should be held but I don’t think that inquests in B’dos determine criminal or Civil liability but is difficult to determine what laws if any were broken e.g was a stop work order issued on the nearby construction site or are we merely dealing with rumours?

    Professor Machel is probably speaking from a Canadian perspective where the laws are different and inquests into similar incidents are the order of the day and where juries’ recommendations are taken seriously.

    Any inquest would be more like an inquiry and would have to be thorough since recommendations will be far reaching in their application to building codes etc. I expect that those responsible would require the services of “experts” in construction, geology, emergency services etc. Barbadian society being what it is many local “experts” may be compromised due to their connection to some of the players in this drama either by virtue of their jobs or because of their public statements on the incident.

    Bear in mind that I’m only a layman expressing my thoughts and any “legal beagle” is welcome to provide theirs.

  21. How is it that nearly every Bajan knows about all the wrongdoings but only shrug their shoulders.
    Time to stand up for your rights, people

  22. John

    Government Official To Blame
    January 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm
    The cave maps and surveys are like gold now. Some places are on thin thin “ground” and the maps are being kept secret until inside people sell their land and homes.

    Don’t know of any official cave maps or surveys in existence.

    If they do exist, I would love to see the ones for the higher elevations.

    What I have found is that some cane fields in Barbados are called “Cave Ground” and I believe that the maps of which you speak are in the heads of the old timers.

    I was once told about “the deepest drainage well in Barbados, drop a stone in and you never hear it hit bottom.”

    My explanation is that the well hit a cave.

    The stone goes down the shaft and only hits ground when it reaches the bottom of the cave.

    The sound then is dissipated in the cave and very little, if any gets back up the well which is a small opening in the roof of the cave.

    That well is in St. Thomas close to Ayshford. It is in the field with possibly one of the largest sinkholes I have seen in Barbados.

    Sinkholes and caves go together.

    The plantations where I can recall seeing field names with the word Cave in them are Lion Castle, Hopewell, Vaucluse, Cane Garden and Edgehill.

    Colin Hudson did some good work in mapping the canefields in Barbados and I was lucky enough to have seen it. I’ll look again and see if there are others.

    These “Cave Grounds” were close to gullies. Not surprising given that water is involved in the making a cave.

    I reckon the Western side of the island must be riddled with caves given the number of gullies that cross it on their way to the sea.

    There are also some “Cave Hills” in Barbados besides the one where UWI is located.

    There is a Cave Hill in St. Lucy close to the caves in the cliff by Cove Bay.

    There is one in Christ Church which I think explains the cave in at Plumgrove where a garbage truck’s wheel dropped in through the road surface. Plumgrove development is located on a water course.

    I think that caves create not only the concern to avoid building buildings that may collapse but also a far greater one and that is the pollution of our underground water supply.

    When we lived closer to our land we understood it and respected it.

    Today land is viewed simply as a commodity to be bought and sold and it is treated with scant respect.

    In this regard we have become not unlike pimps.

  23. Sargeant

    BFP…….. I know that you have had issues in the past with scurrilous comments posted by some bloggers but aren’t you taking this moderation thing too far? What is the point of posting articles encouraging people to respond and debate and when they do, a notice to the effect “your comment is awaiting moderation” is on displayed. The blogger then has to post another statement requesting you to release his or her comment and when you get around to it the original has lost whatever effect it might have had.

    I think many people decide it is a waste of time and move on without bothering to ask you to retrieve their posts. The election is over and many of the anonymous types who you were wary of have seemed to have moved on.

    Frankly this “moderation” is bordering on the ridiculous.


    BFP says,

    If you ran a blog, you would have some idea of how naive you are. We receive over 500 “spam” comments per day flogging everything from sex toys to viagra to investment schemes. Yes, we could shut off the moderation and you could wade through the trash yourself.

    We also still get threatening and obscene posts every day from the same animals that the Royal Barbados Police Force refuses to arrest even though they know their identities.

    Like it or not, that’s reality.

    Of course, if you are totally dissatisfied with waiting a few hours for your comment, you could always start your own blog. I’m sure in a few weeks you’d be up to a rate of a couple of million visitors a year and then you could be in charge of moderation.

    24 hours a day.

  24. Government Official To Blame

    Sargeant, have you read the “about moderation” tab at the top?

    BFP gets to the comment moderation when they get to it. Sometimes not for hours. Don’t be a cry baby.

  25. 199

    The Scout
    January 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm
    If you are in Britain, what do you know about the ambulance service in Barbados? Shut Up Fool.


    Scout, mine is a direct quote from BFP’s article, above! Now please show me where I state that “I know about the ambulance service in Barbados”, or, if you can’t, then at least have the decency to apologise!

  26. 199

    Sargeant, I’ve had an online discussion forum of my own and can assure you that BFP is absolutely, correct about the amount of spam which you receive. Just try to be patient, my friend!!

  27. San Diego

    Cry baby? He’s a bullying dictator with multiple personalities. Always was.

  28. Nostradamus

    The Scout
    January 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm
    If you are in Britain, what do you know about the ambulance service in Barbados? Shut Up Fool.
    Hey guys and gals, lay off 199 he is a Neanderthal and knows about caves. On second thoughts my apologies to the Neanderthals!

  29. Jukecheckedeyskirt

    In light of the presentation of these facts and the obvious questions the professor suggest we ask, I am starting to question the compentency of our professionals as well as their integrity to morally convey facts. I am sure that we have all heard the skillful rhetoric and articulate dribbles from so many who confess to be experts. Yet when we scrutinized or put their assertions under the microscope, you realise how weak and pathetic are their knowledge base and so called expert opinion.

    It is clear that we in this tiny island of Barbados, would neglect the obvious things that could be detrimental to human health for the sake of grabbling the opportunity to gain quick wealth.

    If what the professor purports as gross negligence is indeed reminiscent of the fate of that family, then it is clear that a crime was committed years before the cave collapse. It is my opinion that there should be an immediate inquest with thorough investigation to provide a time-line of events leading up to this national tragedy. If the government fails to carry out an unbias inquest, then the government (both past and present) should be the ones put on trial for cover up and remaining reticent on a matter that has national significance. The people of Barbados deserves better representation than a mere “its no bodies fault…case closed.’

  30. 199

    Nostradamus, an intelligent and constructive remark would be most welcome from you, at some point in the future, when you’re ready! Meanwhile, we won’t hold our breath!!

  31. Veggieman

    The ministers hogged the press during the tragedy. They used it to gain political milage while playing PR experts, but we pressed their reject button when the time came.

  32. J. Payne

    I was thinking about all of one ‘na ya today. I had happen to come across my “A~Z of Barbados Heritage” book today sitting on the shelf and a grabbed it and thumbed through it for a couple minutes. One entry I came to was “Gullies” Quote (they) are the winding, branching ravines, often up to 20 m (60 feet) deep, which mainly run from the central higher regions of the island towards the coast. Geologically, these were once caves with underground stream, the roofs of which have long since collapsed as evidenced by the stalactites and stalagmites to be seen in most gullies. End Quote…

    So all one must do is look down inside some of the gullies and remember that those were a portion of the island’s cave system too that alsi collapsed… This means it is clear that brittle caves abound… I think it is perfectly fair to call on the government to release all the info that the know about the island’s many caves.

  33. J. Payne

    @ Hants:

    “In Barbados when you are building a house, you layout the “foundation” on the ground and dig until you get to hard rock.”

    That certainly would be a start. The one thing that comes to my mind is Barbados is an island that is created by the collision of the Caribbean and South American plates so surely there could be some buckling of the earth’s crust on the island (including the bedrock)?

  34. ru4real

    January 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    There are a number of things about this tragedy that are puzzling, not the least of which is the fact that there hasn’t been a public inquiry. Not once have I seen details in any media sources about who was constructing a day care centre. Any number of people living in Arch Cot would have seen surveyors, construction crew and possibly even the person responsible for the project. Was this to be a private day-care centre or government subsidised centre? In any case, there are people who know, yet, that information has not been forthcoming.
    COW construction.

  35. Sargeant


    COW construction.

    Say no more, that explains everything

  36. The Last Kiss Good-bye

    Tremors woke me from a peaceful rest
    Had something crushing against my chest
    Everything was different, it was hard to see
    Looks like I was caught in a catastrophe
    And then I remembered I wasn’t alone
    Suddenly I thought of my family but where’s everyone
    The room echoed my diminished cry
    Keep trying, I thought, but I heard no reply
    I alone breathed the odorous air
    Seems like my family escaped, leaving me down here
    So I tried to pull away from the fallen debris
    Got some dry wall from off of me
    Out from a hole I crawled then freed my head
    Over the side I saw my wife, still, bludgeoned dead
    Despair quickened my knees but I was too late
    Brought me to my 3 kids who met their mother’s fate
    Yesterday I didn’t give them the last kiss good-bye
    Everyone’s gone to an eternity, now so too must I.

    An Acrostic Poem from The Bajan Poetry Society

  37. Pingback: Former Barbados Government Minister Liz Thompson Writes BFP - “I deny that I was involved in any way” with Arch Cot Collapse « Barbados Free Press

  38. Pingback: Barbados Government Cover-Up - No Inquest Into Codrington Family Deaths - Home Collapsed Into Known Cave « Barbados Free Press

  39. the article has in red that the government and police are covering it up.

    pray tell me why or how the police would cover up a building falling into a hole? your blame is landing at the wrong feet.

  40. BFP

    Hi Cover Up

    When the hole is known, when building on the land is prevented because of a known cave but then papers are magically changed at the Land Registry to remove this, and the building is constructed and then cracks appear and engineers say “no problem” and then the building falls into the hole and kills five people in a preventable happening…

    All of that was done by people with names. Big people. Big names.

    No inquest for what would be manslaughter or murder in New Jersey or London.

    That, my friend, is evidence of a cover up to protect the big names guilty.