by Kimberley Cummins
The kiss of life.
It may sound clich√ but there is no way that can better describe the greatest event to occur in the life of Kerwin Delpeche. On April 7, 1993, the then 16-year-old was almost just a pleasant memory to his family and friends.
Yesterday morning at the home of Captain Dennis Griffith in Franklyn Development in Clapham, Christ Church, Delpeche formally met the man who helped to prevent this from happening, John Briand and he was joined his wife Brenda.
Back in ’93, accompanied by a group of friends, Delpeche ventured to Sandy Beach in Hastings, Christ Church to have fun, just like many others did during their vacations from school, but little did he know that life as he knew it would be changed by a single event.
The young men did not have a care in the world as they frolicked in the crystal clear waters, but then curiosity took over. After spotting a moored boat in the water they decided to climb onto it and use it as a base for diving. Doing that for a while, was wonderful then suddenly a strong current came and he got into difficulty behind the boat.
Recounting the event, he said he began fighting aggressively to hold on to the boat so as not to sink — he did that for what seemed like and hour. With a trembling voice, almost like he was reliving the event, he explained:
“I got tired at the time. I remember panicking and telling one of my friends, to get the hook of the long harpoon to send it to me so I can just pull back but everybody was so hysterical and panicking. I believe some of my friends thought… I was playing around.”
A few moments before, John and Brenda, who were visiting the island from the United Kingdom and staying in Worthing, were engaged in a cool, romantic evening walk along the beach. It was then the former ship master saw the teens.
“I was watching these guys on the boat and I thought ‘the owner isn’t going to be pleased with these people jumping on and off his boat’,” he said jokingly.
Then he saw someone waving, while his wife interjected that they thought the person was just “messing around”.
“But I certainly wasn’t going into the water because I am not a good swimmer at all but fortunately, two other people were stronger and got Kerwin ashore and they were all kind of standing around [wondering] what do we do next. So that is when I kissed my first black man and saved his life. Fortunately I didn’t have to do it too long [CPR] — just the contact with a white man and suddenly he was good,” he added as he laughed.
“It got him breathing again. I felt good… but I felt very sorry for him because he would’ve been in quite a lot of pain, his ears were full of sand, his eyes were full of sand but the fact is he was alive.”
Unfortunately, the Briands did not get to speak to him after the incident because he was hospitalised for a week and they had to return to their homeland. But as fate would have it, not too long after they returned home they received a “thank you” letter from Delpeche. After that the couple relocated to New Zealand and lost communication with the young man.
However, close to 20 years after the letter was found and it was the impetuous for a Briand/Delpeche reunion.
It was while planning for a vacation, Brenda told Barbados TODAY, that they found a good deal on a 38-day cruise. To their surprise it was scheduled to sail through Barbados so they jumped at the opportunity. Using the Internet, they tried to reach someone who knew of Kerwin.
Finally they connected with Manager of Operations at The Booth Steamship, Paul Rawlins, and he got the ball rolling on the get together. Little did they know, she revealed, that Rawlins had actually reached Kerwin and made plans for the reunion; so it was a “big surprise” when John stepped into the house and saw the all-grown-up Delpeche.
He ran to him, wrapped his arms around him and tightly embraced him. With tears flowing down his cheeks John pulled the letter from his wallet as evidence that he never forget his experience in Barbados.
Barely audible, the semi-retiree said the best part of travelling was getting to meet people he had met before.
“All the shops are the same but the people are different,” he added, before presenting him with a precious stone trinket.
Delpeche who was visibly overwhelmed, gripped the stone and vowed to keep in contact with the Briands. Despite the near-death experience,†he said he still loved the sea very much, even though these days it is mostly from the distance of a passing bus.
“I went to the beach a couple times but I don’t venture out that far. I basically keep it to waist height and if I feel a little strong under current and my feet start to get swept from under me I go a little closer in,” he said as he laughed. [email protected]