Survivors of the Montego Bay flood tragedy that claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl have retraced the terrifying ordeal after the vehicle in which they were travelling was tossed aside by floodwaters during torrential rainfall Tuesday afternoon.
The body of Jennel Walters, a seventh-grader at Montego Bay High School, was recovered near the cruise ship pier in the tourism capital.
Her grandmother, 68-year-old Beryl Walters, who is still missing, is feared dead.
Jennel, Beryl, and the child’s aunt, Shannon Walters, were passengers in a motor car being driven by Berris Walters, Jennel’s grandfather, when they were trapped by floodwaters along the Westgate main road.
The car was washed into the Montego River where Berris and Shannon were rescued by bystanders and members of the Montego Freeport Fire Brigade who braved the raging water.
Recalling the tragedy, Berris Walters said they were on their way home from the Rose Heights community during heavy rains when they were caught by surprise by the magnitude of the flooding.
“We stopped near to the (Anglican) church and the water come and flood out the car and wash it down against the banking … . Then again water come again, spin it out, and it overturn,” he told The Gleaner.
“Mi wind down the window and open the door fi come out. We see some men across the road and we call them fi help wi and they were coming, but before they could reach us, the water spin round the car and it wash weh.”
Shannon recounted how she and her father battled the floodwaters and grasped at branches in desperation as they watched Beryl and Jennel being swept away.
“The car turn over and we get wash out … . Mi haffi swim and hold on pon a branch. When me hold on pon the branch, the man dem come fi mi and take mi out,” the 25-year-old said.
“When mi a swim, mi haffi swim with mi head up so that dem can see mi.”
Clayvian Williams, one of several men who braved the floodwaters to rescue the survivors, said someone alerted him to the unfolding tragedy after the car overturned.
Without thinking of his own safety, he sprang into action.
Williams said the only thing he could do was to clutch at Berris, bracing his back against the riverbank, while allowing others to pull the elderly man from danger.
Good Samaritan Yolande Cornwall, owner of the nearby Cornwall Gardens Centre, provided the grandfather with a warm beverage and dry clothes as he waited anxiously for news of his wife and granddaughter.
Acting mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon, joined firefighters, the police, and soldiers in the search for the missing relatives.