Desperate rescue efforts fail to save 2-month-old after house collapses
A near four-hour frantic search for a two-month-old twin girl by emergency responders and residents ended in sorrow in Bowden Hill, St Andrew, after a home collapsed in the hilly terrain on Tuesday morning.
About 9:45 a.m., Timera Dennie was pulled from near the base of the debris where her home once stood.
Residents reportedly heard a loud commotion at 6 a.m. and, when checks were made, they found that five persons were trapped inside the one-room dwelling, that had tumbled down the hillside.
Neighbours sprang into action and managed to pull four, including Timera’s twin sister, from the rubble.
The Stony Hill police were summoned and, with the guidance of 32 Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) personnel, the search effort intensified and scores of onlookers waited with bated breaths for a positive outcome.
“The rain fall non-stop from weh day. The earth soft, and the earthquake the other day might have moved the building and no one knew. It wicked. We only hear a loud sound and pure bawling,” a resident told The Gleaner.
In between the heavy equipment cutting away and bolstering of concrete, there were calls for total silence.
Even a ‘meow’ from a cat caught the ire of the firefighters, who were listening keenly for any sound from the newborn and demanded deafening silence.
The first signal of disappointment came from Patrick Gooden, senior superintendent of the JFB’s Kingston and St Andrew Division, when he called for the firefighters to gather around and for a hold on unofficial photos from bystanders.
The infant was found unresponsive.
She was wrapped in a towel and whisked off to the Bustamante Hospital for Children, where her death was confirmed.
Up to press time, the other twin remained in hospital, while the other occupants who had been pulled from the rubble were treated and released.
A relative of the twins told The Gleaner that the parents are devastated.
“They were awake and feeding the children. The mother had one and the father had the other. The one the father had fell from his hands. The twins made him a father,” the relative said.
Gooden told The Gleaner that the response protocols that govern incidents like yesterday’s were activated. He commended the residents for rendering meaningful assistance.
“It was somewhat difficult. The terrain, as you recognise, is somewhat challenging … , but we were able to use the relevant equipment within our possession,” Gooden said.
Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams and technocrats from the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation visited the scene.
Williams said the possibility of such tragic incidents occurring was among reasons persons are urged to apply for building permits before constructing any structure.
“Make the application. It’s not just about the municipality collecting a fee. It is about how structures are to be put up, where you put up structures and that the structures are safe,” Williams said.
City engineer Xavier Chevannes said his preliminary analysis was that the structure was built in the Hermitage Dam watershed area.
“As you can imagine, watershed areas tend to have a lot of rainfall … . From what I observed, the soil became supersaturated and the structure would have failed,” he said.
Chevannes also said improper reinforcement would have led to the building being compromised.
“The building practices and heavyweight structures on these soil types can be problematic if you don’t have the proper foundation and [haven’t] done the proper test to see what type of structure this soil can withstand,” he further noted.
Tasha Schwapp, councillor for the Stony Hill division, told The Gleaner that she was devastated because she knew when the girls were born.
She said that such type of building practices were common in rural spaces called for more guidance.
“We need to find solutions to move forward; one, to comfort the family and, two, look into rural communities and look at the best fix to build, … the best ways to sustain the terrains where we build,” Schwapp said.