One month after being brutally attacked and injured aboard their sailing boat in Union Island, two visitors returned to the destination this week, where, in an emotional session, they held talks with tourism stakeholders about addressing problems affecting the sector there.
Christina Curtin received a massive gash to her left cheek when she and Mark Beiser were attacked and chopped about their heads and hands aboard their yacht, “Rainbow”, sometime after 7 p.m. on Oct. 3.
Police have charged 16-year-old Jerome Jordan and a 15-year-old boy, both of Union Island, in relation to the crime.
Police are alleging that the teenagers boarded the yacht while it was anchored off Union Island, and chopped the couple.
A preliminary inquiry began on Oct. 18 and will continue on Jan. 29, 2014,
Curtin told the meeting of tourism stakeholders on Tuesday that while she is still trying to recover from the ordeal, it will not deter her from visiting Union Island again.
“The island is still beautiful and after the incident, we got an outpouring of love from local businesses and residents. We know that the people of Union Island are not bad. We came back to say hello,” she said at the meeting, at which she and other stakeholders cried openly.
She spoke of the impact of the incident. “We still have difficulty sleeping onboard. We have to lock up our boats now. So, we feel that our freedom has been taken away from us as cruisers,” she said.
During the discussion, which was also attended by chair of the tourism board, Lesroy Noel, stakeholders talked about a range of issues, including harassment of visitors and repairing the image of Union Island and the Southern Grenadines.
Manager of the Tobago Cays Marine Park, Kenneth Williams, invited the couple to visit the Tobago Cays, and said all fees will be waived, as a goodwill gesture.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament last week that the couple’s distress call, sent via VHF radio, was not received at the Coast Guard Base in Calliaqua, located some 40 nautical miles away on St. Vincent’s south-western coast, where monitoring is done 24 hours a day.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, questioned the non-response of the Rapid Response Unit of the Police Force, a tactical unit that is supposed to provide quick response to serious crimes.
Gonsalves, who was responding to a question tabled by Opposition legislator, MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, said he had invited the couple to return to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as personal guests of the Prime Minister.
The burglarisation of yachts anchored in the Grenadines is an on-going challenge for tourism stakeholders and national security officials, who have attempted several strategies, including the deployment of patrol boats to try to arrest the problem.