UPDATED: October 10, 2010
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.
Barbados Attorney General announced Inquest results 3 years ago on August 31, 2007
“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.
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.