Deputy Commissioner of Police Reynold Hadaway has commended the SVG Coastguard for its response to the accident at Rock Gutter on Jan. 12, which left five students dead and a further two missing at sea and presumed dead, when a minivan plunged into the sea there.

Hadaway told a press conference this week that he is aware of the high level of criticism levelled at the Police Force and specifically the Coastguard “for what is perceived to be a tardy response to the operation.

“Let me say that on the morning, having received the information, the police … responded as urgently and as swiftly as possible,” Hadaway said.

“The Police Force came under heavy criticism in respect to the response, which primarily resides with the SVG Coastguard…” he said.

Trained professionals

Hadaway said that from the inception, Assistant Commissioner of Police Christopher Benjamin, who is in charge of police operations, coordinated the response to the accident.

“I would like to take this opportunity to commend the efforts of our Coastguard, amidst what [has]… been said on social media and across the length and breadth of. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“What we have to take into consideration here is that the persons responsible directly — that is the Coastguard — for carrying our the exercise are trained personnel and they would put certain consideration into assessing what steps or measures can be taken.

“We’re really deeply moved by the loss of lives and would continue to keep those persons affected in our prayers.

“But the efforts of the Coastguard cannot go unnoticed…” Hadaway told the press conference at which Commander of the Coastguard Brenton Cain as well as the Coastguard officers who responded to the incident outlined their response.

Commissioner of Police Michael Charles, centre, and Deputy Commissioner Reynold Hadaway at Rock Gutter on Jan. 12. (IWN photo)
Commissioner of Police Michael Charles, centre, and Deputy Commissioner Reynold Hadaway at Rock Gutter on Jan. 12. (IWN photo)

Related: Rough sea at Rock Gutter placed divers’ lives at risk, Coastguard Master Diver says

The deputy police chief said the Police Force is also mourning the death of the students.

Hadaway noted that Station Sergeant of Police Hezron Ballantyne’s daughter, Simonique Ballantyne, is missing at sea, and that the wife of a corporal was injured in the accident.

The senior police officer said that the constabulary views many of the persons involved in the accident as its own members.

He said two of students who died, Jamall Edwards and Anique Alexander, are members of the Police Youth Club.

Five of those who were injured, Christie Bowens, Odesia Stay, Onique Michael, Tyrril Thomas, and Maxwell Michael are also members of the Police Youth Club, which aims to instil positive values and leadership skills among young Vincentians.

Hadaway said that the Police Force will give the affected persons all the support it can throughout this period and beyond.

He said the Police Christian Soldiers and senior officers of the Police Force and the Coastguard had scheduled visits to Fancy, where all of the person involved in the accident live.

Hadaway said that the search for the two missing students continues.

“So we have not given up. We are really hopeful that we can find those two bodies that are missing so that the families can find some sort of comfort knowing that they … have seen their loved ones once and for all,” he said.