‘Safe’ in Arch Cot
Life has returned to Arch Cot, Britton’s Hill, St Michael, after life was tragically lost five years ago.
Three families have resumed living in the area after a deadly cave-in caused an apartment building to collapse, killing a family of five: Donavere Codrington, 30, his wife Cassandra, 27 and their three children, seven-year-old Shaquanda, three-year-old Shaquille and one-year-old Yashiro.
Last Friday, Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris, in a strongly worded summary and verdict in the enquiry to the accident, said the August 26, 2007 cave-in could have been avoided, and described it as an act of man forcing the hand of God.
Marshall-Harris said the Codrington family need not have died since the Shalom Apartment building where they lived for a mere two months should never have been built on that fragile area, and excavation work near the building should have stopped on July 9, 2007 – a month before the incident – when a massive hole appeared.
On Wednesday, a Ministry of Transport and Works crew started removing the roofs of three buildings earmarked for demolition. The WEEKEND NATION took the opportunity to speak to the residents.
Tristan Whittaker lives three houses away from the gaping chasm, which is now overgrown with bush. His family moved back in 2008 and Whittaker said while he felt safe for now, they had an ongoing concern which Government officials appeared to be ignoring.
“Our major concern is [that] the house two houses away (next to the hole) no longer has a foundation and with the recent rains, we have noticed a big boulder shifting further and further down the hole,” he said.
Whittaker said two years ago, the crack in the boulder was around two inches wide but was now as big as six feet.
“It is evident that is the main support for the house and if it crumbles it will put the rest of us in danger,” he said.
Nevertheless, Whittaker said he had no intention of living elsewhere as long as that issue was dealt with in a timely manner. However, he said this was not happening. He also spoke about his experiences on that fateful day.
“KC [neighbour Alvin Best] called us around [five], that morning. I heard an apartment had collapsed and, honestly, I thought it had just fallen over on its side.
“When we went outside later, we saw the roof was the only thing keeping the apartment up and that was when a boulder fell and dislodged the whole thing. It sounded like an explosion. Everybody started to scramble, including the police,” he said.
Across the road, Francis Bellamy had returned home much more recently. He said he had officially moved back on Monday.
“I am not worried. So far from what I know of everything that has happened, I feel safe here. This is one of the most peaceful, comfortable and private places in Britton’s Hill,” he said.
Bellamy said he was asleep when the accident happened and had no idea what was going on until the electricity was cut which caused his fan to shut off and the mosquitoes to move in, waking him.
He said he agreed with the coroner’s report.
“When the construction was going on, I saw a hole in the ground appear that was at least 300 feet deep. I thought the construction would have stopped but then I saw a huge roller working later . . . ,” he said.
Bellamy said his job now was to clear away the bush which has taken over his yard and to plant a garden as his mother and owner of the house, Elda Bellamy, “loved she plants bad”.
When contacted, Best said he was speaking with his attorney-at-law and did not want to comment.