An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of a retaining wall at Ratho Mill last Friday morning that claimed the life of Patricia Jack-Bowman has begun.
While nothing can bring back the kindhearted, loving, one-of-a-kind woman that was Patricia Jack-Bowman, Chief Engineer Brent Bailey, in a press conference on Tuesday, September 23, along with Acting Prime Minister Michael Browne, gave the assurance that no stone will be left unturned in the investigation.
About 60 feet of retaining wall from a property owned by Alex and Lisa Jack came tumbling down on Jack Bowman’s vehicle as she headed to her restaurant at Canash.
The investigation will hopefully determine whether an act of God was assisted by the negligence of man.
“The investigation has started, and I have already been in touch with Planning (division) regarding the construction of that wall,” the Chief Engineer assured SEARCHLIGHT in a subsequent interview.
He said that all the factors will be taken into consideration as the authorities figure out what happened, and what all contributed to it.
One undeniable contributor to the tragedy was the eight inches of rain that was recorded over a 48-hour period from 2:30am Friday morning.
Rescue workers in knee-high muddy water seen here washing the mud off the car that was uncovered from the debris.
The rain was caused by the passing of a tropical wave which interacted with a trough system between Thursday, September 18 and Saturday, September 20.
At last Tuesday’s press conference, Minister Browne, reading from a prepared statement said that there were 85 confirmed calls to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) about disruption due to the weather system including flooding and 30 landslides, which resulted in eight road blockages.
None of this disruption can compare with the disaster at Ratho Mill however.
Just before midday, the massive wall tumbled down and filled the highway with tons of rumble resulting in a complete blockage of the highway.
A clean up operation was launched, but at around 2:45 p.m., when NEMO received reports that a vehicle may have been trapped in the debris, what began as a clean up exercise turned into a search and rescue operation and later a recovery operation.
In the midst of the pouring rain and resulting muddy conditions, personnel from the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, the Ministry of Works, CO Williams Co. Ltd, Franco Construction Limited and Kelectric Co. Ltd. and others worked together to remove the piles of debris.
Just before 8 p.m., what was a mangled, horrific looking version of Bowman’s black Nissan Pulsar car (PN39) was recovered.
When the mud was washed away from the car, what was feared became a reality as Bowman’s body was seen crushed in the compressed car.
The car was taken to the Police narcotics base, where the body was cut out of the vehicle.
The clean up operation continued up to midnight but was halted when concerns were raised about the potential for more slippage.
Since then, a further 60 feet of the retaining wall was removed and Bailey said that steps have been taken to monitor the remaining walls over the next two months.
He said if signs of movement in the remaining wall is seen, it will be demolished.
The highway has since been reopened, but a section of road has been barricaded so as to provide for the eventuality of any further slippage.
He however gave the assurance that the highway is safe.