Schoolmates overcome by grief
BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS for four Lester Vaughan School friends turned tragic last Sunday when 16-year-old Shaquille Webster lost his life after getting into difficulties swimming off Browne’s Beach.
Webster, who had celebrated his birthday the previous day, had left home to attend Shanice Bowen’s birthday picnic on the popular beach, the fellow student having turned 16 on Friday.
Webster was also looking forward to spending the day with best friend Mark Rock, who was 16 last Sunday. The popular cadet had also been planning to eat some cake with Faith Ramdeholl at school yesterday on her birthday, having told her since Friday to “make sure you bring my slice of cake, hear”.
But all those plans were watered down by tears, as students clung to each other and to their teachers during prayers, with the news of yet another death at the school too much to bear.
Principal Diana Wilson offered comforting words to those in mourning while urging them to release their grief during morning prayers.
Counsellors from Network Services Inc were on hand to help those affected by the tragedy.
Webster’s best friend Rock broke down in tears and had to be consoled as he recounted to counsellor Anderson Kellman and, later, to Webster’s mother Gail Neblett what had happened that fateful day.
He said the group of friends had gathered for the picnic and as they went to change clothing Webster told Rock that he had forgotten his towel.
Rock did not know it but Webster’s grandmother Opel Inniss had ordered him not to go in the water, and for that reason had not given him a towel.
“While we were swimming out, Shaquille was way behind us,” Rock recalled.
“So we kept swimming but then I heard someone shouting for help. When we looked back, I saw Shaquille and he seemed to be panicking.
“So I turned around and started swimming back to him, but by that time his head started going under the water.”Fighting back tears, Rock said he saw a Rastafarian man swimming towards him.
“When I saw the Rasta man swimming to me, I was wondering why but then I realized that I had swam past Shaquille,” he said in a muffled voice.
Rock said his friend had disappeared under the water but the unidentified Rastafarian quickly found him and brought him to the surface.
Together they carried Webster to shore and placed him on his stomach.
“When we did that, the water started to come out of his mouth and he started to bring up all his food but he was still breathing although he was unconscious, so I know there was hope,” Rock said.
However, Webster was pronounced dead on arrival at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Rock told the DAILY NATION that he and Webster had been friends from first form. They were both cadets and went almost everywhere together.
Principal Wilson, who too was in tears, described Webster as a student with a sense of humour and a great athlete.“
Only recently, he told me of his big plans for the future and how he had changed,” she admitted. “He had a whole set of goals set for the coming school year. How do you celebrate a birthday one day and then . . .”
She noted that Webster was the fifth student the school has lost to tragic circumstances.