Survivor recalls horrible events of 13-year-old's drowning - 'I saw Britannie washing away'
The community of Cheswick in Dalvey, St Thomas, was left in grief and disbelief yesterday morning after the body of 13-year-old Britannie Cowen was found along the roadside.
Cowen was one of three students of the Paul Bogle High School who were swept away by flood waters caused by the heavy rainfalls that lashed the eastern parts of the island on Tuesday evening.
Two of the three girls were rescued by a man known only as Ziggy from the Dalvey community.
Serena Reid, one of the girls who was rescued, told The Gleaner what occurred that evening.
"The bus let us off up the road, so we were walking, trying to reach home. But the more I was walking was the more the water was getting higher and higher until it reach mi up here suh," she said, indicating with her hand that the water had reached a little above her chest.
Reid continued: "I was still walking until me first wash away. Then another girl. And a man name Ziggy come after me. After he came, he saw that I was all right because I was holding on to a tree stump, so he went after the other girl. The other girl and Ziggy ended up down a library (a distance from where she was).
"I climbed up on the 'banking' and up on a woman's step, and when I looked, I saw Britannie washing away. I heard the people shouting to Britannie, telling her to let go of the two bags shi was carrying, but shi never let go," Reid said as her voice softened to a sob.
Reid said that the woman, on whose step she had climbed, took her inside the house and gave her dry clothes and tea to drink.
The 12-year-old told The Gleaner that prior to them being washed away by the flood, they were walking alongside a few nurses, who also lived in the community.
According to her: "When the nurse ladies si wi a wash 'way, they were bawling, but they couldn't help us."
The two survivors sustained minor bruises.
Julian Green, mother of Cowen, recalled earlier conversations she had the day her eldest daughter drowned.
"Mi send her to school the morning, and when she got to Morant Bay, she called me and told me that she couldn't get any vehicle to take her up to the school. So I said to myself that I will wait until 8:30 to tell her to come home back.
"When she reached by the school, it was 11 minutes after eight. She told me that no teacher was there but that she would wait a little to see if any would show up before coming back.
"Up 'til 10 o'clock, I didn't get any call, so I was there waiting until when time for school to over. I was saying, 'How mi nuh hear mi daughter call mi?' After three, she called me and asked about something I had asked her to purchase for me.
"Suh around four/five o'clock, I was still wondering where she was and if her credit had finished, or what. When I got a chance to call her, she told me she was in Hampton Court, sheltering from the rain.
"Around minutes to six, I left out to go look for her. When I was leaving out, a man run come to say that shi dead, that he could only save two of the children, he couldn't save her. I told him I don't believe him, so we went on the road still, only to hear that she drowned and they couldn't find her body," she said.
Green, who was being consoled by the family's pastor, revealed that she was very sad as her daughter's birthday is tomorrow and her father, who is abroad, is supposed to be flying in to visit her.
Grade seven coordinator at the Paul Bogle High School Diana Thompson, who described Britannie as a very quiet and shy student, told The Gleaner that a team from the Ministry of Education, along with guidance counsellors from various schools in the parish, visited the institution to offer comfort to the students and teachers.
"Not many children were here today, especially those from Dalvey and Port Morant side, but we gathered the students of grade seven, of which Britannie was a part, and we had sessions with them. Some were crying, while others are still trying to understand why she had to die," Thompson said.