Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jamaica: Update--US Tourist, 53, Resident of Las Vegas Killed by Personal Watercraft, Operator Flees Scene

According to The Associated Press, US tourist Thomas Torres, 53, of Las Vegas, NV was killed on Tuesday (January 28) after being struck in the head by a personal watercraft off a popular western beach resort.
Constable Carla Francis of the Jamaican police force's communications office identified the victim by name, age and place of residence.
Torres was reportedly swimming in the sea off the beach in Negril when he was hit by the watercraft, Francis said. Witnesses told police the operator of the watercraft sped off as beachgoers jumped into the water to pull Torres to shore.
Torres was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The operator of the jet-ski, fled from the area, although

A man reportedly already in trouble with the law and with a case before the courts, has been taken into custody and four Jet Skis seized, after an American tourist became the causality of a hit-and-run accident in Negril, Westmoreland on Tuesday, February, 28.
Police detectives have indicated that they have taken a man in for questioning hours after the fatal incident he was said to have been involved in. It is understood that the accused was already before the courts for illegally operating a water craft machine.
The dead American has been identified as 53 year old Thomas Torres Castillo a resident from Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to reports, Castillo was reportedly swimming close to his hotel in which he was staying, Travellers Beach Hotel when the fatal incident took place.
Police in the tourist resort town of Negril, Westmoreland said at about 1:15 p.m. Castillo was struck in the head by the jet-ski, which at the time did not stop. 
The American, who was vacationing in the island with his wife, was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Investigations are ongoing.
Days after the incident Assistant Superintendent of the Marine Police Adrian Hamilton, revealed in an interview with another entity that the suspect who has had previous run-ins with the law, was before the court only weeks ago, (January 9) for operating without a license and insurance.
In recent months there have been several complaints about jet skis being operated in areas reserved for swimming. 
Late last year October, Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill told Parliament that there would be a six-month suspension on the importation of all jet skis for commercial use.
He also said, that the Ministry of Tourism had held talks with the marine police and the Jamaica Defence Force Coastguard about actions to be taken against illegal jet-ski operators.     
In the meantime there is a call from some members of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) for a complete ban on jet skis in certain resort areas. 
This would be an interim step until permanent measures are implemented. 
COMMENT: A few months ago, Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill announced in Parliament that regulations on the safe usage of personal watercraft would be strengthened and enforced. He made the announcement amid growing concern about accidents as well as the environmental impact and noise pollution from person watercraft.
McNeill also imposed a six-month ban on the importation of new watercraft and said all personal watercraft activities in resort areas would be conducted beyond swimming areas and away from piers and shops.
Kingsley Roberts, communications director for Jamaica's tourism ministry, said officials were awaiting a full report on Tuesday's incident and had no immediate comment other than the fact they regretted the death of the American. 
In August 2013, another deadly personal watercraft accident made headlines on the Caribbean island. A seven-year-old Jamaican girl was killed while playing in the sand in the northern resort town of Ocho Rios when a watercraft operator lost control and skidded up the beach, slamming into her. Several relatives of the girl were injured. The operator, a tourist, was charged with manslaughter.
I continue to urge visitors from abroad to be wary of personal watercraft in emerging nations as few island-nations have yet to effectively regulate these often dangerous watercraft.

Additionally, few rental operators ensure that all operators who rent such vehicles are given thorough instruction in their operation and that a Jamaican driver's license or foreign driving permits are copied before a rental agreement is finalized.