Christina Curtin after the Oct. 3, 2013 attack.

The local Coast Guard did not receive a distress call from a couple attacked aboard their yacht in Union Island on Oct. 3, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament this week.

“… the call was made but he didn’t get it,” Gonsalves said of the Coast Guard officer monitoring for distress calls at the Base in Calliaqua at the time.

An email sent to the Office of the Prime Minister, which was also circulated on the Internet, says that cruisers aboard the 39-foot sailing vessel Rainbow, anchored off Frigate Rock near Union Island, were attacked by a machete-wielding assailant.

“Reports indicate the assailant entered the interior of the boat without warning and severely mutilated the female occupant’s face.

“The male occupant grabbed a kitchen knife and successfully fought off the assailant while receiving injuries.

“After providing the female occupant with initial first aid, the male occupant contacted Grenada Rescue One, pulled anchor and proceeded to Carriacou where officials and medical personnel were waiting dockside,” said the email sent by by sailor Maurice Howland, who said he listened to the attack on his VHF radio.

The victims of the attack have been identified as Mark Beiser and  Tina Curtin.

Gonsalves was responding in Parliament to a question submitted by Terrance Ollivierre MP for Southern Grenadines, where the incident occurred, about the non-response of the Coast Guard.

Ollivierre was absent from Parliament and Vynnette Frederick, an Opposition senator, read the question.

In his question to Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, Ollivierre, said distress calls were sent out but were not answered by local Coast Guard nor police, but by Grenadians.

He asked the Prime Minister to say if there are VHF radios or other surveillance equipment at strategic locations in the state to monitor distress calls from persons in difficulties in Vincentian waters.

The scene inside the cabin of the yacht after the attack. (internet photo)
The scene inside the cabin of the yacht after the attack. (internet photo)

Ollivierre also wanted to know what mechanisms are put in place to guarantee a prompt response to such distress calls in times of difficulties.

Gonsalves told Parliament that following a report, on Oct. 4, around 10:40 a.m., Coast Guard vessel SVG11, with five officers on-board, left the Coast Guard Base at Calliaqua for Union Island to assist police there to investigate a yacht break-in that had occurred on Oct. 3 about 7:30 p.m.

He told Parliament that it was reported that the owner of the yacht, an American, and his girlfriend received injuries during the attack.

Gonsalves said the sailors were assisted by other yachties who received the distress call and then they lifted anchor and headed for Carriacou, where Beiser arranged a flight to take his girlfriend to Grenada for medical treatment.

The Prime Minister further stated that the woman injured in the attack was in stable condition in hospital in Grenada.

He said that the man had indicated that he made a general broadcast on his VHF radio on the emergency channel.

But the Prime Minister said that while the Coast Guard monitors 24-hours a day for distress calls, the petty officer on duty that day said no call was received at the Coast Guard Base in Calliaqua.

“In other words, the call was made but he didn’t get it,” Gonsalves said, adding that when there are incidents like these, he requests the general report from the Commissioner of Police but also wants to know what the officer involved is saying.

He said he was out of state when the incident occurred and when he returned he contacted the injured woman and expressed regret on behalf of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The woman, he told Parliament, said the people of Union Island were generally very friendly.

“I invited her and Mr. Beiser to come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as personal guests of the Prime Minister so that we can show, through them, our own sense of hospitality …” he told lawmakers.

Gonsalves said that police stations and Coast Guard bases are equipped with VHF radios including Port Elizabeth, Bequia in the Northern Grenadines.

He said that in June, marine transceivers and antennas were installed at police stations in Chateaubelair, Rose Hall, Barrouallie, Owia, Paget Farm, and Union Island to monitor distress calls from persons in difficulties in the nation’s waters.

The systems were tested and communication established with J6MC lighthouse in southern St. Lucia and the J8F at Fort Charlotte, St. Vincent.

He said these radios are monitored on a 24-hour basis.

He further said that a new VHF repeater is being installed, which would give all stations the capability to receive signals via channel 16, the VHF marine distress channel.

The channel is monitored at the Coast Guard on a 24-hour basis, Gonsalves further said.

“Normally, they ought to have received that distress call. … Officer Johnson, who is a diligent person, didn’t hear it. And this is what I am told, that VHF radio operates on the straight line concept, meaning that the radio waves only travel in a straight line. So, any obstruction to the waves will affect the communications process,” Gonsalves said.

He further said that the height of an antenna location and brand of radio have direct bearing on the effectiveness of the communication.

There are instances where the VHF communication can only be heard in a 10-mile range, Gonsalves said.

He further noted that the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is installed at the Coast Guard base, which provides the capability to receive alerts from persons or vessels on a GMDSS handset.

The GMDSS is an internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment, and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.

“The information which we obtained from the Coast Guard is that when the incident occurred, he lifted his anchor and headed for Carriacou. While on his way, he broadcasted ‘help, help’ on the VHF and was assisted by a vessel. So that the idea that the coast guard was negligent, that they didn’t respond, is not borne out by what is before me,” Gonsalves said.

11 replies on “Coast Guard did not receive distress call from sailors attacked and injured in Union Island — PM”

  1. The problem is that they say they are listening to the radio and they are not. I know that things have happened locally in Saint Vincent, close to the coastguard, and broadcast on the emergency channel. They never responded or answered their telephone even. The previous commander had to be called at home by bar and restaurant owners on several occasions to get any response from the coastguard station.

    I don’t know if they are sleeping, or playing dominoes, cards, or whatever. They have a record of failing to respond when they are called from only a mile away.

    What I suggest is that most of the coastguard officers are removed from service and given prime jobs, you know the way the Marxist led ULP government always give jobs to those who steal or fail in their duty.

    Perhaps when the two American police officer ladies were here earlier in the year, you know the ones who were experts in giving lie detector tests, they tested all the coastguard officers to see if they are in the pay of drug dealers. Well they should of asked them some other questions, about listening to the radio, and all the other failings.

    Don’t forget it trickles down from the very top.

    1. I disagree with your statement that implies that the coast guard service are neglectful as it relates to the monitoring on the Radios and telephones I can assure you that is not so, the communication devices are monitored 24hrs 7days a week and it is done effectively and efficiently.
      It is a fact that the vessel in question was in SVG water however look at the respond time as it related to the Coast Guard Vessel leaving main land to travel to Union Island vs that of GND’s Coast Guard taking into consideration the kind of the injuries this poor person was dealing with at that time.

      One more thing if the Coast Guard Commander received calls at home may be it was because the main lines had problems and as a result the command had to contacted the persons that need to be contacted via personal cells.

  2. All this drama does not bode well for our already fragile tourism industry. Its most unfortunate that these folks travel thousand miles to visit our shores for some R&R ,only to be attacked by some “Jason” like characters, WTF. No amount of personal invitation, would erased the mental and physical trauma sustained by these folks.

    Now the Coast Guard issue is truly mind boggling to me…if I am reading and understanding correctly, the Coast Guard is coming from Calliaqua to respond to a distress call in Union Island? Do we have an air transport Coast Guard? You mean we going by boat?Are we out of our f’king minds?…from Calliaqua to Union Island? For an emergency? To get there when? This is unbelievable…so let me ask, are there any coast guard facilities ANYWHERE in the Grenadines? Clearly none in Union Island, none in Bequia? Canouan? So lets for a moment say that the distressed call was picked up by our Coast Guard…the fact remains, that there is no way our Coast Guard(boat) could have gotten to Union Island from Calliaqua in time to make a smidgen of a difference, whether in the case of catching the criminal or saving the lives of these folks…but lets not be alarmed, we have VH1 radios all over the place, albeit they are useless outside a 10 mile range…priceless.

    What Gonsalves is talking here is a load of cloth…of course the Coast Guard was negligent….this is a dereliction of duty… to say “you didn’t hear” is a poor arse excuse given that people lives were in mortal danger; someone should loose their job over this incident. But, lets not be alarmed, accountability is the hallmark of this Gonsalves Administration. And to prove my point, I give you just a few examples:when our National Bank got into financial difficulties, of course no fault of the Gonsalves Administration,**cough cough** they sold it to foreigners, it was a master stroke. When Gonsalves prodigy, Luke Browne, took matters in his own hands and throw building and loan under the bus…this Administration, gave Luke a pat on the shoulder, figuratively of course. When people attempted to perform cunnilingus on a Police woman without her consent, the public was reassured, it was no big deal…

    We keep taking things for granted in Vincyland, then something drastic happens and we bitch and moan making all sort of excuses ala Gonsalves on this issue. Given that we are surrounded by water and we have a sordid history of illicit activities taking place in our waters, you would think more attention and investment would be made to upgrade our coast guard facilities over the years by respective Administrations. We have spent millions on our roads, but don’t ask me why our roads are still in a state of f’ked-up; we are spending millions on a new airport, don’t ask me when its going to be completed; but when it comes to sea security, we couldn’t give two cents, well ok, they did give about two cents in upgrade. There ought to be a coast guard base in Bequia, given that the Grenadines is the tourist hub of the country. I would venture to say that the base at Calliaqua should be relocated somewhere in the Grenadines to have at least a constant presence, monitoring the various docks in the Grenadines to protect folks from vandalism and heinous crimes; this is not the first incident to occur in the Grenadines nor on the mainland…these criminal activities are becoming regular occurrences in our waters and this Administration appears to be dragging its feet in implementing effective preventative methods to lessen these attacks. Its the least you can do , if you are serious about building a strong tourism industry.

    This Gonsalves Administration has invested around $300M in the Canouan Marina which is slated to open sometime next year…take that with a grain of salt, given the poor history of this Gonsalves Administration when it comes to completion dates. Now when folks hear about fellow boat owners being viciously attacked by machete wielding lunatics in the Grenadines, who the f’ck would want to come to St Vincent and the Grenadines? Its one thing to build lavish infrastructures but if you don’t have the necessary resources to make people comfortable and safe…they are not going to come, even if its a personal invitation from the Prime Minister.

  3. The VHF radios in the Coast Guard/Police facilities should have recording devices so that incoming/outgoing communications could be recorded and reviewed later. They probably already do. When an officer is found guilty of negligence, he and his superior should be terminated. Otherwise, there is no discipline, no call to action, and a continuing avoidance of these specific islands by cruisers. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has to take full responsibility for his Nations reputation, and so far…..

  4. Hold on here! Isn’t this the same Calliaqua area where a policeman was attacked in his bed, in the police station? Are these people on sleeping pills? What’s going on with these people? Ralph is also sleeping on the job, because this is yet another attack on a yacht in SVG waters. He’s yet to put some form of protection for the yacht people. I hope these Americans sue so that Ralph can get out of his sleep-walk.
    He spouts nothing but excuses to cover-up his incompetence to deal with security incidents that occurs on his watch. So he was away and nobody was left in control of the shop: That’s was annoys me, because he believes he has to handle everything. Everything and everybody must come to papa. Isn’t there a backup just in case he never returns?
    Ralph is no good at security, even for SVG nationals, with the increase of crime and he’s no good at finance because Vincentians are starving in a country where food was no problem some years ago. His mind is so much on the airport that he is neglecting other source of revenue that once made SVG a tourist paradise. His government has destroyed the banana industry, the business sector has deteriorated and now it’s the yachting sector that will see a decline.
    Then he has a nerve to ask for another term– for what? To continue the pain that he has brought on the people during his two terms. This government has failed the people of SVG and it has failed the tourists who visit our shores. Why would visitors want to come to SVG when they are being attacked and killed? Is the government trying to destroy the yachting industry, so people would only come by plane? Well if the news gets around – and it will, because there are many Yachting Magazines and they publish stories like this incident.
    Ok Ralph, This is the time to ask the US for assistance in upgrading the equipment, so you can protect their people. You seem to be making excuses for the coastguard and I don’t buy his version or yours. Your invitation is a farce. Pay all the expenses for the trouble the people had to endure and get those lazy suckers off their arse. Here is a simple idea: Set up several cameras both on land and at sea and you can monitor those more easily from several locations. Next move the equipment out of Calliaqua to another location in the Grenadines.

  5. I want the prime minister or his minster of communications if there is such a minister to consider implementing some up to date communication systems within both the police and the coast guard forces there is not a price on safety. This is not the first time that there happen to be a lack of communication within svg not to long in the past a police office was shot and he did not even had a radio on him to send a distress call.
    Mister minister please invest in some up to date communication systems and finally please provide the the necessary trainging for our forces…….. enough said but more to be said in that later.

  6. No matter what communications equipment is installed, UNLESS DISCIPLINE WITH ITS USE IS ALSO MANDATORY, it will fail. On duty monitoring officers will fall asleep, simply go far a “walk about”; for just a few minutes and BINGO it will be then that an emergency arises. Obviously the greater the number of monitoring stations the better, but bear in mind if the critical station fluffs, the s..t must hit the fan. My sympathy to the injured parties – sailing in the exotic Grenadines, one of the most scenic sailing areas in the world, should be made safe – the area does not want to be like the sea of Somalia and their pirates. If the person is caught and successfully prosecuted, it should be JAIL FOR LIFE.

  7. Norman Sabeeney says:

    First I must say this is truly sad.
    April 2012 my boat was broken into off Princess Margaret bay Bequia. Lots was stolen. Some months later someone answered a call on one of the stolen phones, I got the person name and a photograph of the person who answered the call. I asked a friend who live in St Vincent to report it, I also contacted someone from the Bequia tourist boar

  8. Norman Sabeeney says:

    First I must say this is truly very very sad.
    My boat was broken into April 2012 while in Bequia. Lots was stolen. We all went ashore for dinner and bar hopping. So, luckily no one was on the boat as it may have been a.physical attack too.
    Some months later a call was made to one of the stolen phones and a name and picture came up on the screen. When the receiver of the call realized it was one of us he immediately cut the call off.
    I called a friend in St. Vincent to report the information to the police and also to a member of the Bequia tourist board. Sadly nothing was done.
    My question is, do the authorities really care? When will the authorities stop making excuses and do their jobs. Maybe they will do something about it if the sailing boats bypass Bequia.
    I am a Caribbean person and I see and hear all sorts of excuses all the time.
    Do you need to be a rocket scientist to solve these problems? Other places with millions of people solve this kind of problems. And please don’t tell me it happen all over the world. That’ s an excuse for not doing your job. Our Islands are truly beautiful ,let us get our act together as there are other places for the boats to go. Inviting the victims back as guest to you Mr. Prime minister is such a joke
    . STOP PLAYING GAMES. THE ISLANDS NEED VISITORS, You may not need us but lots of your people make a living from visitors. ” I am a Trini victim “

  9. Michael Providence says:

    Its funny how we as a people have turned and rely on the goverment foe everything. Am sure there are pearson in union island who might have information on this . Are they helping the poluce? Are we as a people protecting our island? No becasue we have come to a point where we seem to think its only the prime minister and the police job to protect our island.how many of us habours criminal from other countries ? Time for us to start do the little we can as a people to help solve crime in st vincent and the grenadines…

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