Sixteen years after taxi driver Edmond âBamâ Thomas saved the lives of four German tourists at the beach at Argyle, the harrowing experience is still fresh in his mind.
And Thomas is of the opinion that the persons responsible for tourism in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have not learnt from what took place on Tuesday, January 30, 2001 at Argyle.
On that fateful day, Bam took the Germans to Argyle after they insisted that they wanted to swim there. He said that they stressed that they were used to waters like those at Argyle and everything had gone smoothly the previous Sunday when they were taken there.
He told SEARCHLIGHT that he had outlined the dangers of swimming in the rough waters to the group of five, but the decision was theirs. That was a deadly decision for one of the men, because a little while after entering the water, all five of the Germans began experiencing difficulties.
Bam said he jumped into the water and managed to help four of the Germans back to dry land while the fifth one, Michael Toedter, 50, drowned.
âYears later, this is still fresh in my mind and I think by now there should be a lifeguard service here. I think that the fact that we donât have one is lack of professionalism,â said Bam.
The taxi operator of 32 years said that he is concerned about tourists who are usually taken on tours to places like Mt Wynne beach and left alone by taxi operators.
âI mean, they take people down there where there is a lot of bush, and robberies can happen and water issues can happen and there is no lifeguard or security,â said Bam.
He said that the Government should invest in lifeguards at certain beaches that are attractive to tourists.
Recalling the day 16 years ago, the taxi operator said the current pulled them away and they started panicking.
â…so I jump in and tell them we have to go with the tide. I was telling them to go with the current because the current it goes in a circle,âexplained Bam, who guided the group and brought them back to shore, a feat that took about 20 minutes.
He said that the man who died panicked very early and did not seem to have the energy to keep up, but may have been saved if someone with medical skills was on the scene when he was pulled from the water.
Bam, who described the drowning as one of the âmost horrible experiencesâ of his life, has lost contact with the family over the years, but takes from the experience the opinion that this country should have mechanisms in place should these things occur at local beaches.
That group of Germans seemed to have had some bad luck during that 2001 visit, as after the drowning, they were involved in a vehicle accident in the Murrayâs Road area, when a minivan ran into Bamâs taxi while they were in it. No one was injured during the crash.
In February 2001, Bam was praised by then Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs Allan Cruickshank for saving the lives of the Germans.
The Arnos Vale man was rewarded a certificate of bravery by the Ministry.