Surprise Inquest called into Barbados Arch Cot cave deaths

UPDATED: October 10, 2010

Also see BREAKING STORY: Intimidation of witnesses to keep silent! Witnesses fear arson, violence & job loss if they testify.

Original story published October 9, 2010…

Barbados government yields to citizen pressure, but…

Will we see a proper inquest, or a carefully choreographed event?

An inquest has been called into the August 2007 deaths of five members of the Codrington family – killed when their home was swallowed into a collapsing cave at Arch Cot, Brittons Hill.

The short notice of only 10 days between the public announcement of the inquest and the October 18, 2010 start date is raising some concerns.

Relatives and friends of the Codringtons, aided by other citizens, foreign experts and the blogs, have been calling for an inquest for three years. With one rare exception, and then only after much shaming, the Barbados news media largely ignored the issue. Many people on and off this island believe the lack of media interest is directly related to important people being involved in various ways with the land, home, collapse and rescue efforts.

Issues raised at Barbados Free Press and other venues include:

– Sale and ownership history of the land.

– The mysterious removal of a “no building” clause on the land title.

– The building of the home on a known cave.

– Ownership history after the home was built.

– Construction work nearby that may have led to the collapse.

– A stop work order at the nearby construction site when cracks started to appear near the home, an engineering survey and the subsequent decision to lift the stop work order.

– The rescue team took several hours to arrive at the scene, and hardly anything was done for several more hours. These were the most crucial hours to save lives, yet they passed with nary anything being done!

– Decisions made at the scene by emergency responders that may or may not have caused the deaths of some members of the Codrington family who may have still been alive after the initial collapse.

– The lack of equipment and training for emergency workers.

– The lack of proper laws, building codes, inspections and site assessment requirements in Barbados and how this lawlessness contributed to the deaths.

BREAKING STORY: Intimidation of witnesses to keep silent! Witnesses fear arson, violence & job loss if they testify.

Barbados Attorney General announced Inquest results 3 years ago on August 31, 2007


Started cover-up


“It could have happened to anyone” said then-Attorney General Dale Marshall before the bodies had even been pulled from the rubble.

Yes, of course it could have happened to anyone in Barbados with people like Dale Marshall in positions of power and authority – who are part of and responsible for the corrupt public institutions that issued the building permits and failed in their duty to protect innocent citizens.

No one to blame except an “Act of God” according to Dale Marshall. Poor God gets blamed for a lot ’round this place.

Dale Marshall’s comment set the official government position within hours of the collapse and the lapdog Barbados news media said “Yes massa!” for the next two years and assisted in what can only be seen as a cover-up.

Now the public learns only nine days prior to the October 18th start that Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris will hold an inquest.

An article in The Nation says that 70 witnesses are expected to testify and that summonses have already gone out. We would be interested in knowing when the summonses were sent out. Did they go out long enough ago to provide reasonable notice to all witnesses, including the offshore experts?

Pardon our cynicism folks, but the decision to hold this inquest nine days from now wasn’t made yesterday. This could be, and should be, the largest and most detailed inquest ever held in Barbados because it touches on so many important issues – but if the prospective witnesses are just learning about the inquest now, that might be a clue that we’re not going to get the inquest that we and the Codringtons deserve. If the summonses went out 90 days ago to give people time to prepare and schedule then why didn’t we hear about the upcoming inquest until now?

Something strange always goes on ’bout hey when the big names are involved and this nine-day notice is making the little hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. If the date of the inquest was announced months ago and we missed it, we’ll feel much better.

Whenever those summonses went out, Barbados citizens should be paying attention to this inquest. One of the big doubts we have is whether the Barbados news media will provide the detailed and uncensored coverage of this inquest that Bajans deserve. It should be videotaped with online streaming so citizens can hear and see for themselves.

Further Reading

Major article: Expert: Arch Cot Cave-In Victims May Have Been Killed By Wrong Decisions, Actions and Inaction By Barbados Emergency Officials

Nation article reprinted here in full in case they change history by taking it down from the internet (like they do sometimes)…

Arch Cot query

by Antoinette Connell

A probe into one of Barbados’ worst disasters is about to begin.

The deadly Arch Cot cave-in of 2007 comes up for hearing before Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris on October 18.

About 70 witnesses are expected to testify in the case where an apartment building collapsed into a cave at Arch Cot, Brittons Cross Road, St Michael on August 26, 2007 – killing a family of five.

The inquest into the deaths of Donavere Codrington, 30, his wife Cassandra, 27; their three children, seven-year-old Shaquanda, three-year-old Shaquille and one-year-old Yashiro will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Coroner’s Court, Roebuck Street, St Michael.

Summonses have already gone out to witnesses connected to that fateful Sunday morning cave-in, including relatives of the deceased, emergency personnel and residents evacuated from the area.

Three years ago the island woke to the tragic news of the cave-in as a response team of about 200 police, fire and medical officers and disaster workers descended on the area in a search-and-rescue attempt. Silence soon replaced earlier screams for help.

Hours later a specialist unit, the Miami-Dade Rescue Team, was rushed into the island from the United States hours and, to the cheers of scores gathered at the site, descended into the deep dark hole looking for survivors. But the hope of a nation vanished with the chilling report that the sniffer dogs had detected no signs of life.

Hope turned to grief as over time, one by one the bodies of the five was retrieved from under the rubble of the two-storey apartment they had moved into only two weeks earlier.

The incident triggered uneasiness about the island’s stability in light of its vast underground network of cave.

The Arch Cot area has been reduced to a virtual ghost town, with the only frequent visitors being vagrants and vandals who dare to trespass into the danger zone.

The area is plagued with rodents and overgrown with bush as residents complained of being forgotten by authorities now that the spotlight of 2007 have gone out.

Put on hold

“If we don’t do it, nobody will come and cut this grass for us. As long as they hear Arch Cot, they put you on hold or say they will call you back, but they don’t even take the numbers,” long-time resident David Benn lamented recently.

The news of the inquests comes weeks after Shirley Linton, mother of the late Cassandra Codrington, said she had  a heavy heart because “I feel the Government forget everything ’bout what happen in Brittons Hill in 2007”.

“The Government is so slack . . . up to now I haven’t come to a closure as to what really happened and I don’t know what will happen in the future.

“You see, when you are poor they tend to drag you through the mud. If this was a rich person with initials behind their name, things would have been dealt with better,” she said back in August.

Government earlier this year said it would acquire and demolish three properties in the area.


Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Corruption, Disaster

29 responses to “Surprise Inquest called into Barbados Arch Cot cave deaths

  1. bajan tremblor

    I think this is a smoke screen for dealing with the economy as this inquest apart from indicting COW will also lay fingers at BLP hierarchy, a neat distraction from the true issues of the day… Like CLICO vs BARP, Lowe’s inertia, is Sinckler truly competent for Finance or was he thrown into the deep end for spite – among other topics.

  2. rasta man

    Wonder how much money this will cost and what purpose it will serve????

  3. HM

    Even if only half of what is written here turns out to be true then I am absolutely incredulous! Are Bajans people with backbones or just a bunch of sheep? See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing and DO NOTHING.

    If you think that finding out the truth and taking appropriate action serves no purpose then I feel sorry for you all.

  4. what will they think of next

    Do you want an inquest or don’t you want an inquest? Make up your mind!

  5. permres

    rasta man, we would hope that answers to the questions in the OP here will be answered, and it be shown that certain individuals are criminally responsible for the deaths of these people. Charges can then be brought and they can be punished.

    This will not, of course, bring back the Codrington family, but there will then be some sort of closure for their relatives. It will also show that Barbados is a caring nation and will not, any longer, remain quiet to the corruption which goes on, if it can at all be exposed.

    I really hope that Professor Machel will be called to give evidence.

  6. what will they think of next

    We all know that a daycare center was being built for a Barbados Labour Party Minister at the time which caused the cave-in.

  7. Huh?


    If you mean Liz Thompson, she came on BFP and said it was nothing to do with her and she was off the island at the time etc etc etc.

    Is it Liz you mean or someone else?

  8. Johnny Postle

    Inquest + Talk= Nothing

  9. sea eggs

    Who knew about the inquest coming? THE FAMILY DID NOT KNOW UNTIL THE NEWSPAPER SAID!!!

    When did the witnesses know about the inquest? When they read it in the papers?

    Was the geology professor from Canada invited? When?

    signed, family person.

  10. Red Lake Lassie

    I hope the family gets the answers they need, but those answers could be heartbreaking. The Coroner needs to explain the death certificate for Donavere that says he died two days after the cave-in.

  11. Johnny Postle

    If Professor Machel (and not that pretending to be an expert on geological matters, who never wrote a single paper on his so called area of expertise,(what’s the name of the idiot again?)) is not called then you know this inquest is a mere formality.

    Government of Barbados are you reading how much confidence your people have in you? Nearly everyone in Barbados knows how well you are at covering up to protect the Big Boys club.

    Better be careful how you conduct this inquest and how much money you spend on it. The eyes of Barbados are upon you because it took you three years to start an inquest. I wonder why so long? Have the big boys who are responsible for the deaths of innocence finally cover up some loose ends? Just asking no offense.

  12. what will they think of next

    What you expected Liz thompson to say?

  13. BFP

    Hi Johnny Postle

    Yes indeedy… why 3 years before the inquest? Why not at 1 year, or 2, or six months ago at 2.5 years?

    Why now? What was done by the Coroner or anyone in the last year to further this inquest? Why couldn’t this inquest have been held a year ago? Why is the time right now? Who made the decision to not have the inquest 6 months ago but now is a good time?

    And you are very right that if Professor Machel has not been called and already sent a summons that says it all.

    Professor Machel? Are you about? What’s the story?

  14. Anonymouse Not By Choice

    It occurs to me that the PM, under the present circumstances. may just want to leave a legacy. I am sure that a great deal of reflection upon unfinished business is being done by the PM and perhaps he wants to ensure that this inquest goes forward while he is still PM. If it turns over rocks to expose those who knowingly put the lives of innocent people at risk by subverting the law of the land, he has nothing to lose and perhaps everything to gain in the eyes of the people of Barbados.

  15. Johnny Postle

    I do not wish any bad for the PM; his illness is a serious blow to Dem and to the people of Barbados. But I will say that our PM did not kept his promises to bring ITAL and those from the other side who were heavily engage in corruptive activity, to justice. He has led most to believe that what he did and say before the elections concerning so many promises was just to solicit votes to win the election. Now it is over and he is in, his expectations are that the people of Barbados would forget and move on. Well the people of Barbados have not forgotten.

    Actually our memories are getting better as we reel under hardships and watch politicians and their friends prosper under the same hardships. Mr. PM you need redemption. I sincerely hope that you can beat this very bad cancer. I hope that during this time of uncertainty about your life and many other things, you will do some serious self introspection and soul searching. The type that would allow you to make the right decisions for the country such as the introduction of ITAL and very harsh penalties for any politician (or civil servant) stealing from the public purse. It is your right and duty to do what is best for the people of Barbados and that right must start by exposing the wrongs done by those who are benefiting freely and with out restriction in activities that are not of a transparent nature.

    I want you to beat this sickness. You have loving family and are respected by many. Redeem yourself by bringing all that you have promise into reality. ITAL ITAL ITAL I PRAY THAT YOU WILL TELL.

  16. BFP

    Hi Anonymouse Not By Choice,

    Professor Machel sent the PM his letter in January of 2009.

    I don’t believe that the PM did anything in the year and ten months since then to advance the truth about Arch Cot.

  17. Anonymouse Not By Choice

    Hi BFP,

    Perhaps I was not being blunt enough in my post. Back in January of 2009, Thompie had no way of knowing that maybe his days were going to get a lot shorter than expected. We all know that in such a small place as Barbados that everyone intertwined in one way or another, especially those in politics. If you open a can of worms belonging to one person then your own can of worms going to be presented to you.
    To call out those responsible for the Arch Cot tragedy just might get your own dirty laundry aired for all and sundry.
    My thoughts are that, in his present condition, the PM may be taking stock and realizing that alla that doesn’t really matter anymore.

  18. Oh dear

    No summons was received by any member of this family..that’s for sure… if not for Fridays’ story when would we have known?

    Please post all info, pictures or information you may have on this facebook page: ARCH COT INQUEST, WE WANT JUSTICE

  19. Oh dear

    due to legal concerns please email any info to instead…vetted information will then be updated to ARCH COT INQUEST, WE WANT JUSTICE GROUP.

  20. Derek Kelly

    Whats the point of having an inquest into a cave in , makes no sense

  21. Derek Kelly

    Have an enquiry into why the houses were built there in the first place ,find out who and why

  22. This could go on for the next 25 years just talk and talk and then some will say ,why they wait so long ,by then half of us woul d have died. and those that remain ,would not care. I chose to do buisness with a lawer QC who look my hard earn money ,this has been going on 6years and they are other young strong barbadians who has been robbed by lawers,some too ashame to talk, just cant belive this has happen to them living here in barbados. people come from england, canada and usa trying to get their money back from these thie fing lawers. some of the thiefing lawers died leaving the money for their wives.If these lawers robbing the young and strong, what you think about the old and weak,and undertakers doing it too,no longer from seed to seed,they bury the old people and dont even give them a head stone after selling their house and for a large sum.

  23. permres

    October 18th. The day of the inquest. Where is it being held?

    I have seen nothing since, anywhere, about this.

  24. permres

    OOps, sorry, I though today was Monday! I’d better go back to bed.

  25. BA88/98

    Has Professor Machel been called to give evidence? What about his reports of threats to witnesses? Did the coroner make any inquiries about that?

    We’ll have to wait until Monday for some of the answers, but I’d like to know about the news media coverage. This is going to be the largest inquests we’ve had with 70 witnesses and so far only one tiny article appeared in the nation and nothing in the advocate. How can we rely upon the news media?

    Will Ian Bourne be reporting on this? Can BFP tell us that? 😉

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