A tragedy occurred at Martin Road, The Pine, St Michael today and we have all felt it.
A young man lost his life in circumstances that should not have existed.
We grieve with the family and friends of 17-year-old Kyriq Boyce, all too aware that there are simply no words at such an inexpressibly needless loss.
We wish that those who are hurting find comfort and peace at this difficult time.
The incident has raised some tough questions and in the coming days, there must be answers.
No, we are not interested in a zero-sum, partisan blame game. This benefits no one.
But it is time that agencies and authorities are called to account for what can only be an egregious act of negligence. What is so difficult about systems of safety assurance, maintenance, repair and oversight on infrastructure to ensure there is no chance of such misfortune again? Today was a well. Will tomorrow be a bridge?
Barbados’ limestone landscape is already pockmarked with naturally occurring sinkholes, yet for the third time this year, a Barbadian has fallen into a well, that was dug by human hands.
On May 24, National Conservation Commission worker Tynicya Rollins fell into a 32-foot deep well while on the job at Inch Marlow, Christ Church.
Fortunately, she survived the trauma and is still recuperating from injuries.
Co-workers reported that the well was covered by a slab “that looked decent, no cracks or nothing” but it moved easily when Rollins’ foot struck the slab and she fell in.
On June 2, Kayla Hurley, 17, of Collins, St Peter, suffered neck and upper body pain after she fell into a 20-feet well at her home.
Hurley was standing on plywood covering which gave away.
Then came today’s fatal incident, one which exposes the abandonment of a duty of care.
According to the Police spokesman, acting Inspector Rodney Inniss, Boyce, who was a short distance from his home, walked on a well cover and then fell into the 100-feet deep pit.
After valiant attempts by the Fire Service to rescue him from the pit within an hour of the fall, Boyce was pronounced dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Frustrated residents told reporters at the scene that they have repeatedly pressed authorities at the National Housing Corporation to fix the well.
Resident Cathy-Ann Best declared: “NHC could have come and fixed the well every since but somebody had to die to get it fixed.”
Donisha Dottin said there were two wells of 100 feet and 50 feet in the community.
“Both of those wells wanted fixing for the longest time. It has been more than a year that we have been calling NHC, but all we keep hearing is that they don’t have any materials.
“Let’s see if they will find materials now that somebody dead,” Dottin said.
Alarming revelations no doubt, and what’s even more striking is confirmation from the authorities that they did receive the complaints but were unable to correct the problem because of a lack of resources.
Charles Griffith, Minister in the Ministry of Housing said: “We have taken stock at what is happening at that location and the other locations and I could assure all of those residents who are living in those housing estates that we will rectify the situation as soon as possible.
“Now we have been cash-strapped for a while as it relates to dealing with issues like this but we understand the significance of fixing these wells. It is unfortunate that this situation would have happened today, but the NHC and the Ministry are actively on the job dealing with the situation.”
How did we get here?
We believe the public deserves a full explanation of the kind that only a serious-minded full public inquiry can demand.
But while we wait and mull over all that has happened, and how we move forward, it is clear that it cannot be business as usual.
It’s no secret that in recent years Barbados has suffered a dramatic decline in the quality of infrastructure and services it provides to the public. This is no longer acceptable – let the overhaul begin now.
The repeated complaints of the people of the Pine should have been addressed long ago. Better, though, that routine oversight of infrastructure could have prevented danger and death from looming in the first place.
For now, the assurances that the problem in the Pine will be addressed as early as tomorrow are hollow to the family and friends of Kyrique Boyce.
For far too long, and too often, our authorities seem only moved to act when blood has been spilt.
Nothing will change unless all complaints, big or small, are treated as seriously by those put in charge of the People’s Business.
In the name of Kyrique Boyce, we call for an end to the lackadaisical culture of lax maintenance, sparse oversight and non-existent public safety security standards.
A new way of doing things in the service of the public, particularly those poorest among us, would leave a legacy more lasting than bronze to a life cut cruelly short through no fault of his own.