Homeless man sets boat on fire
June 14, 2011
Homeless man sets boat on fire

Billowing plumes of black smoke, which appeared to be coming from the Financial Complex, gave passers-by cause for concern last week Thursday, as they went about their business in the capital.{{more}}

However, curious on-lookers who gravitated towards the source of the smoke soon discovered that it was actually a derelict fishing vessel that was on fire.

Officials confirmed that a homeless man, who goes by the nickname ‘Jump Up’, had unintentionally set fire to a trawler in an attempt to burn a pile of garbage.

Benjamin Haynes, deputy warden of the Kingstown Town Board, said that ‘Jump Up’ had been assisting care-taker Nathaniel ‘Natto’ Ashton in disposing of garbage that had piled up in a drain that empties into the harbour, behind the Financial Complex.

“He just turned his back… to tend to one of the other workers, and ‘Jump Up’ lit the fire,” said Haynes.

He said that he had hired Ashton to clear the drain, which was blocked by garbage. Haynes also said that he believes the blockage is a result of small business owners who do not dispose of their garbage properly.

“I would really appreciate if small business people would dispose of their garbage in a better manner, rather than giving the garbage to vagrants [to get rid of],” said Haynes.

He explained that blocked drains are a common occurrence in Kingstown, and cause flooding when there is heavy rainfall.

“It’s a serious problem, and something we are concerned about.”

It didn’t take fire fighters too long to get the blaze under control, but the trawler was gutted by the fire.

An official from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority explained that the fishing vessel had run aground during a hurricane over a decade ago, and it should have been the responsibility of the Fisheries Division to remove it.

However, Jennifer Cruickshank-Howard, of the Fisheries Division, said that although she is unsure of the protocol surrounding the vessel’s removal, she believes that the onus is on the vessel’s owner.

Cruickshank-Howard also added that in the past, the Fisheries Division has never been called upon to remove fishing vessels that ran aground in that area.

Head of the police force’s public relations department ASP Jonathan Nichols said that although ‘Jump Up’ had been taken into custody for questioning shortly after the incident, he was subsequently released and no charges were made against him.

Haynes, Kingstown Town Board deputy warden, said that he has had similar issues with vagrants in the past.

“From time to time… they cook around town. And sometimes when they light their fires… it gets out of control,” he said.

Haynes explained that vagrants often set up make-shift stoves among the garbage that clutters the harbour front. The garbage often consists of plastics, paper, Styrofoam and other highly flammable materials.

“They’re a nuisance in the city!” complained Haynes.

He said that he had recently attended a meeting where the issue of increasing vagrant numbers was addressed.

He also revealed that the public can expect to see changes being implemented in the near future “to control their presence in the city”. (JV)