THE deafening rumble of thunder over the Sandy Park community yesterday was not enough to drown out the cries of the hundreds of mourners who gathered to bade farewell to four of the six family members who died last month when their house was swept away by flood waters from Tropical Storm Nicole.
As the service proceeded under a light but persistent drizzle, family members and friends wept openly at the sight of the four caskets in the small Sandy Park Seventh Day Adventist Church in Liguanea, St Andrew, with the remains of 34-year-old mother Skeeta Young, her children Keniji Boyd, 14; Sydonnie Bailey, six; and four-year-old Kevonnie Bailey.
On September 29, the four, along with head of the household George Bailey, 42, and 11-year-old Brandy Fritz, Young’s other daughter, perished after raging flood waters broke down the bank of the Sandy Gully on which their two bedroom house was built, sweeping them away and plunging relatives and a nation in grief.
The incident triggered a massive three-day search for the bodies. To date, Fritz’s body has not been found. Bailey was laid to rest last week following a funeral service in Maverley, St Andrew.
The tragedy renewed public debate over the continued illegal practice of persons making their homes along gully banks across the island and also sparked calls for the authorities to take action to prevent any similar loss of lives.
Yesterday, Delroy Chuck, the member of Parliament in whose North East St Andrew constituency Sandy Park is located and who represented Prime Minister Bruce Golding at the funeral service, spoke briefly about the practice but said that the illegal construction was due to a lack of living space.
“It is unfortunate that this is one of the incident that has highlighted some of the problem that we have in that area. The problem is that of overcrowding and lack of liveable space,” said Chuck, who described the incident as “one of the most tragic” in the Sandy Park community.
Chuck’s view was echoed by dozens of other mourners who lined the streets of the community leading to the small church.
The occasion was particularly touching for 55-year-old Daisy Young, the grandmother of the children who perished. “It hard, it hard but I am trying to cope,” said Young, as she held her head and fought hard to hold back the tears.
Beside her, several family members could be seen comforting each other.
Junior Edwards, a student from the New Dawn Primary School, who was a friend of Boyd, said he was still in a state of shock.
“I am still trying to come to terms with what took place,” said the grief-stricken youth, who recalled playing football with Boyd.
Edwards was among dozens of students that comforted each other and cried openly as the caskets were placed in the four hearses parked in the crowded church yard.
Following the service, during which Pastor Channing called on mourners to turn their lives over to God, one grief-stricken woman went to look for the casket of the four-year-old victim.
“Where is the baby, which one the vehicle have the body of the baby?” asked the woman as she scurried around.
Skeeta Young, a vendor who operated close to the Sovereign Centre, was eulogised as a “kind and jovial woman”.
All four victims were interred at the Dovecot Memorial Park.