Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry, has ordered immediate maritime and airport probes, respectively, into Saturday evening’s (April 3, 2010) boat tragedy off the island’s south coast, and a false fire alarm at the Norman Manley International Airport today (April 5), which delayed a number of flights.

The minister has mandated Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ), Rear Admiral Peter Brady, to lead a probe into the boat incident that resulted in two deaths and injury to over 20 other persons. The probe is to be conducted under the Shipping Act, under which the minister may order a preliminary enquiry into any accident involving vessels at sea within Jamaica's waters, including any incident which involves loss of lives, sinking, grounding or other relevant circumstances.

The vessel which was involved in Saturday’s tragedy was a 15-foot glass reinforced plastic craft (commonly called ‘fibre glass boat’). It has been recovered by the Coast Guard and will undergo a thorough inspection by technical experts from the MAJ. The minister is to receive a preliminary report on the incident from Real Admiral Brady later in the week.

In respect of the fire alarm at the airport, which is reported to have taken place near mid-day (today, April 5), Minister Henry directed the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) to immediately begin an investigation, from which a preliminary report is also expected by tomorrow.

“Adherence to proper procedures are critical to ensure safety within the maritime environment, hence it is very important to establish what exactly went wrong on the ill-fated boat trip,” said the minister.

Likewise, he said it was necessary to establish the source of the false fire alarm at the airport, as such occurrences could create havoc in the operation of such a major facility.

Minister Henry, in expressing condolences to the family which suffered from the boating tragedy, also noted the perplexing circumstances under which Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) employee, Everton Parchment, also lost his life on Saturday night. Parchment, a stores supervisor at the company’s Portmore depot, was reportedly returning home from a wedding when the vehicle in which he was travelling was stopped by a police team. A single shot was reportedly fired into the vehicle, resulting in the JUTC employee’s death.

“It was very sad to learn of the boat tragedy, including the trauma which the very little ones who were involved were exposed to,” said Minister Henry. “It was similarly heart-wrenching to learn of the mysterious circumstances behind the death of a young and vibrant member of the JUTC family, for which I have portfolio responsibility.”

Mr. Henry has added his voice to those calling for an in-depth investigation into the shooting incident.