HILARY HOSIA and KELLY LORENNIJ
High tides flooded homes and roads in Rairok, a power outage covered Majuro in darkness, and a small community boat crashed in Delap — all on Wednesday evening. Public Works was quick to clear rock and sand-ridden roads and the outage only lasted an hour or so. The vessel incident, however, left one passenger dead and another in the hospital.
Telbi Jason, Red Cross Assistant Administrator, was one of the first responders who arrived at the boat ramp beside Yummy’s Takeout where a local police boat was about to enter the water. The small boat that crashed, named “Jeirok,” had five passengers, according to Jason. Four of the men work for the KUMIT organization and they were motoring from a function in one of the smaller islands on the northern reef and entered waters in Uliga around seven in the evening as they motored toward Delap.
Jammy Edward, a KUMIT worker, was knocked overboard when the boat collided with one of several old half-sunken ships around the boat ramp next to Yummy’s. The man at the helm was also injured in the crash.
In a state of panic, one of the passengers jumped off and swam ashore to get help while the remaining two motored to the MIMRA Dock area in Delap.
The first person to dive into the water to search for Jammy Edward last Wednesday night was local businessman Sandy Alfred. Sandy, who is recovering from a recent surgery, defied doctor’s orders in an attempt to save the young man’s life. The noble but failed attempt lasted six hours on a dark night in murky waters that made visibility difficult near the Riwut Corner boat ramp.
Around 8pm, a few minutes after the accident occurred, a MALGov police boat was on site with its flashing light, but no divers were in the water yet, he said. Red Cross was on site. “They are very active and it shows they are serious in their job,” he said.
He said he called both national and local police for help. Local had its boat on site. National said they were looking for an available boat. National showed up around 12 midnight.
Seeing the lack of people diving to look for the missing boat passenger, Sandy prepared to head into the water himself.
Before going in the water, “I called my brothers Senators Junior and Maynard, to bring dive equipment,” he said. “Junior brought a snorkel and flashlight and I jumped in.”
By this time, it was about an hour after Jammy Edward was knocked out of the motor boat on contact with the submerged vessel.
“My main concern was to dive in,” Sandy said. “I dove around the area where they said boy went in about 10 times, but my flashlight couldn’t penetrate far into the dark water. They found the body at the deeper end of the submerged boat. Had we had underwater flashlights, we’d have located him faster.”
Sandy described the water as “murky and dark.”
It was high tide and the currents were strong, Jason told the Journal. Search and rescue personnel could barely see in front of their snorkel masks and small flashlights, she added. Eyewitnesses estimate the time of the crash to be around 7:40, before the power went out.
Ultimately, a young man who joined Sandy and others in the underwater search located the body of Jammy around 1am.
By then the tide had gone out and the hospital ambulance, which arrived two hours after first emergency calls for assistance went out, was standing by.
Reflecting on the incident, Jason sees the need for a refresher-training course on emergency first responders for all the personnel involved. This is a lesson we can learn from so we can all help each other, she said, to be prepared at a moment’s notice and keep ourselves trained to respond.
Read more about this in the February 1, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.