Drowned boy’s dad angry at teachers, says he wants closure

 

 

BRYAN’S BAY, Portland — Horace Burke stood on the beach in this town on Jamaica’s north-eastern coast Friday looking out at the same angry sea that had taken his 16-year-old son Shane the day before.

The father’s grief gave way to anger at the teachers who took his son and 39 other students to Shanshy Beach without permission.

Horace Burke (left) listens to a man at the bar at Shanshy Beach in Portland on Friday. Burke was at the beach hoping that a search team would recover the body of his son, Shane, who, along with schoolmate Demel Osburne, drowned there Thursday afternoon. (Photos: Everard Owen)

“This is one hundred per cent negligence,” he fumed.

The elder Burke said he was told that a member of the group alerted the others to the fact that Shane and 17-year-old Demel Osburne were in difficulty in the water.

“Someone said ‘Shane a drown’, and dem say a prank and dem take it for a joke, and two a dem drown,” Burke lamented as he looked across to Navy Island.

The tragic deaths rocked the country Friday after it emerged that the bus carrying the group of St Andrew College students diverted to Portland instead of returning directly to Kingston after a field trip to St Mary to complete a School-Based Assessment (SBA) project.

“My son was destined for St Mary — St Mary Bananas — to do his SBA, and ended up in Portland in tragedy,” Burke said. “My baby mother signed for him to go to St Mary for his SBA. The principal said they had permission to go to St Mary and not Portland.”

On Friday, principal Donovan Isaacs was furious as he confirmed that the signed agreement between the school and parents was for the students to be taken to St Mary only.

Yesterday, the Observer on Saturday reported that the school board will decide this week whether to impose sanctions on the teachers who were on the field trip.

While this will probably bring the closure that Burke seeks, his immediate concern is that the search team will recover his son’s body, just as they did Demel’s.

“All now we caan find my son, so mi still a look out, still a hope fi find him to bring closure to the situation, fi mek him know seh mi love him and want him where mi deh still,” said Burke. “If he is out there I want to find him. After mi bury him, mi really want to hear what happened as mi no hear nothing yet.”

Burke said that at first the information he received about the tragedy was confusing. He said he received a call at about 3:00 pm telling him that his son died in St Mary. After that he heard that it was in Portland.

“I want to bring closure to this. Mi a hear sketchy, sketchy news how him drown,” said Burke.

He described his son as a good boy who always tried to do his best academically, even though he was not a student who got excellent grades.

Despite his grief, Burke had a word of advice for other parents: “Make sure that you have full details of where your children are going and who they are going out with.”

He also pleaded with school administrators to ensure that when they take students out they must all be accounted for and supervised properly.

Yesterday, the search for Shane’s body ended without success.