No lifeguards at Cane Garden Bay & Virgin Gorda beaches
This information was revealed at the 2012 Standing Finance Committee (SFC) deliberations during the presentation by the Conservation and Fisheries Department (CFD).
Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee of the House of Assembly, Acting Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer (CCFO) Kevin Penn told the body that because of funding this was the case and his department would like to extend the programme to the Sister Islands.
Responding to a question from Territorial At Large Member Archibald C. Christian about the allocation for the Life Guard programme, Penn admitted that most of the allocation was for wages.
The Ag. CCFO said that ‘they would also like to extend the programme to Virgin Gorda because the Baths and Devil’s Bay were another area that had a number of people drowning.” Penn told the 2012 SFC that the establishment of the programme at the baths would require at least “five to six officers”, which would double the present budget.
He further told the SFC, appointed by the House of Assembly, to examine the Draft Estimates for 2012 that, because of lack of funding, “that they were not able to cover Cane Garden Bay which was one of the most popular beaches for the tourist”. He told the Committee that in 2010 “a guy from the cruise ship drowned and although there were life guards on the beach who went out to save him, he died”.
The Ag. CCFO said the family wanted to sue the Government because they indicated that the life guards did not do their job properly. He further indicated that at the Coroner’s Inquest at the Magistrate’s Court, it was determined that the life guards were not at fault because there were red flags up. Consequently, the jury asked that the Department equipped the beach with the proper equipment such as a raised tower which was projected to cost $35,000 so the life guards could see the crowd better.
The Member for the third district Hon. Julian Fraser RA, queried whether they had liability insurance. The Ag. CCFO stated that they did not. Hon. Fraser further queried of Penn whether there was insurance for the life guard programme to which the Ag. CCFO stated no.
Hon. Christian queried since there was no coverage on Virgin Gorda and Cane Garden Bay where were the life guards deployed?
Penn told the SFC that Life Guards are only deployed at “Smugglers Cove and Josiah’s Bay…..they were there daily and on the weekends.”
When Penn was pressed about the option of a rotation, the Ag. CCFO told the Committee that, if they were to cover Cane Garden Bay Beach, then they would have to have at least four officers, or neglect Josiah’s Bay and Smuggler’s Cove. Mr. Penn noted that “those two beaches were more dangerous for swimming in terms of the currents.”
In recent years there has been many drowning around the Virgin Islands waters of visitors to the Territory. It is not clear whether having life guards on those beaches would have prevented or reduced these incidents, as some have reportedly occurred due to medical conditions, while others have allegedly occurred under mysterious circumstances.