Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Tearful tragedy as 8-y-o drowns

Published:Wednesday | February 26, 2020 | 12:23 AMGareth Davis/Gleaner Writer
A man walks along a path where Kimona Whyte was washed away after a river overflowed its banks on Monday. Her body was found at sea by the Coast Guard.
A man walks along a path where Kimona Whyte was washed away after a river overflowed its banks on Monday. Her body was found at sea by the Coast Guard.

EPSOM, St Mary:

With tears flowing, Kimesha Stewart recounted her ordeal Monday night when her eight-year-old daughter, Kimona Whyte, whose body was fished from the sea on Tuesday, did not return home from school.

Stewart, who kept repeating that her child was obedient, explained that she was yet to come to grips with the passing of her daughter. She said that heavy rainfall always made crossing the river a treacherous task.

“I became very concerned after she did return from school. I went in search, and before long, dozens of residents, including young men from the area, taxi drivers, the police, and relatives, started a search of the river.

“Her shoes and slippers were discovered on the riverbank, or rather were seen floating along with her school bag. We searched the entire area Monday night for little Kimona, but without success,” the mother told The Gleaner yesterday.

“But our worst fear was realised when her body was found at sea. It is going to be difficult picking up the pieces and her little sister keeps asking for her.”

Kimona was attempting to cross a ford near a river when she was washed away by flood waters about 3 p.m. on Monday during torrential rainfall, which pelted the hilly interior of St Mary.

At the time of her disappearance, Kimona, who was a student at Epsom Primary, was clad in blue uniform and a yellow blouse.

All hopes of finding the student alive were dashed on Tuesday when a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, which joined the search for the missing child, found the body floating at sea shortly before 1 p.m.

“What do we tell a small child who keeps on asking about her sister?” asked Joan Lyttle, a grandaunt of the deceased.

“No one expected anything like this to happen.”

Lyttle is calling for the authorities to construct a bridge for the safety of the most vulnerable, including students and the elderly.

Residents revealed that whenever it rains heavily in the hills, the river’s level rises more than four feet, making it perilously difficult for small children to cross.

The Gleaner has since learned that there is an alternative route in the vicinity of a football field, where there is a bridge that can be used, especially during heavy rainfall.