Sunday, February 2, 2014

Jamaica: Update--Ministry of Tourism, Marine Police Blamed in Death of US Tourist, 53

According to The Jamaica Gleaner, US tourist Tomas Torres Castillo, 53, from Las Vegas, NV, who was staying at the four-star Travellers Beach Hotel in Negril with his wife on January 28, was struck and killed by a jet-skier inside a protected swimming area on Tuesday.

Fortunately, the jet-skier, who killed Castillo as a hit-and-run victim has been arrested and up to four PWC (personal water craft) seized as fruits of the homicide. Reportedly, the driver of the PWC that killed Castillo was already before the courts for illegally operating a  PWC.

Police in the tourist resort town of Negril, Westmoreland said that Castillo was struck by the jet-ski at approximately 1315 hours by the jet-ski, who did not stop at the time the jet-skier killed the American tourist.

In the days following Castillo's death, Assistant Superintendent of the Marine Police Adrian Hamilton revealed in an interview that the suspect, who has had previous run-ins with the law, was before the court only weeks ago, (January 9) for operating a vehicle without a license and insurance.

In recent months there have been several complaints about jet skis being operated in areas reserved for swimming. 

COMMENT: In October 2013, Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill told Parliament that there would be a six-month suspension on the importation of all jet skis for commercial use.

It is unknown as to whether the statement made by McNeill in October was actually enforced.

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. 

Additionally, members of the Negril resort community have publicly said that both the Ministry of Tourism and the Marine Police have been derelict in their duties to effect enforcement of the regulations monitoring jet ski operations in Negril.
The Minister of Tourism actions came one month after the Negril Resort Board wrote to him recommending the immediate suspension of jet ski operations in the town until a review of the policy governing their operations was undertaken and completed. 
Following McNeill's pronouncements, Negril Resort Board Chairman Cliff Reynolds warned that unless there was sustained enforcement of the new regulations, the situation could, over time, revert to the lawlessness that had existed up until that time.

The resort community also stressed that the Marine Police do not even have a physical, uniformed presence in Negril.

The problem of the illegal jet-skis was first highlighted in a Western Focus article in July 2013, where several tourists complained about what they said was the pollution being caused by the craft and the negligent conduct of the PWC operators.
Prior to the negligent death of Tomas Castillo, two other major jet ski accidents have occurred, including one in Negril, where a Russian visitor who was rowing a kayak was seriously injured after colliding with a US tourist who was driving an illegal jet-ski. 

In the other incident, which occurred in St Ann, a jet-ski driven by a tourist drove onto the beach and killed a six-year-old child.

For those who visit the Caribbean islands from developed nations, don't assume that PWCs are enforced as they are at home, as they clearly are NOT.

Incidentally, according to the US Department of State, the threat level for crime in Jamaica is "Critical," which is the highest level of threat on the Department's four-tier threat system.