Outrage at kidnap hoax
WESTERN BUREAU: While the world was convinced JetBlue Airways stewardess Kalina Collier and her mom Candice Walker had gone missing in Jamaica, Walker was recorded leaving and entering the Ocean Coral Spring Resort in Trelawny daily, driving a...
While the world was convinced JetBlue Airways stewardess Kalina Collier and her mom Candice Walker had gone missing in Jamaica, Walker was recorded leaving and entering the Ocean Coral Spring Resort in Trelawny daily, driving a rented Mazda motor car.
Between February 2 and 14, Walker, a Jamaican residing in New York, exited the gates at the property 14 times while social-media influencers and YouTubers shared allegations that the mother and daughter had been kidnapped in Jamaica and that the Government was in collusion with the abductors.
Collier, who arrived on the island on January 28 and checked into the Ocean Coral Spring Resort, tested positive twice for the coronavirus and was placed in quarantine.
However, in a bizarre video, which she released while quarantined, she suggested that she had tested negative and was being held against her will while her captors had cameras installed in her room.
Those ‘cameras’ proved to be motion sensors that are installed in all 513 rooms at the Ocean Coral Spring Resort. The sensors are used as part of the conservation thrust at the resort.
Collier further alarmed her followers that if they didn’t hear from her, they were to assume she had been kidnapped. That hoax spawned a series of hashtags: #findKalina, #whereisKalina, and #kalinacollier.
Within days, the news went viral.
“Kalina lied to hundreds of thousands of people on social media, telling them she felt she was either being trafficked or feared she was being kidnapped,” the resort’s director of sales, Tanesha Clarke, told The Gleaner on Sunday.
“We are not surprised people reacted in this way because the allegations were very serious. And her refusal to go back to all the people she had lied to caused not only the hotel, but the island, to be doing damage control now.”
Jamaican hotels are required to set aside quarantine or isolation rooms for guests who test positive for the virus. Ocean Coral Spring has six such rooms in line with stipulations under the Disaster Risk Management Act and by the Tourism Product Development Company.
Collier was accommodated at no cost for the quarantine period in a Garden Junior Suite, with a balcony overlooking one of the resort’s swimming pools. Her room was on the ground floor and her mom’s on the third floor on the same block.
The Jamaica-born mother was accommodated on a complimentary basis for three nights, out of a goodwill faith, said the resort. She was offered a distress rate for the other 10 nights while her daughter remained quarantined.
“Anyone who tests positive, their companion who wishes to stay at the hotel to accompany them is extended a special reduced rate,” said Clarke.
Hotel manager Guillermo Lachapel said the accusations have affected business at the resort as well as the destination.
“We have had persons wanting to cancel their reservations as a result of this,” he told The Gleaner.
On Sunday, Collier and her mother departed the island, but not before the airline stewardess was cleared to travel by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Her stay in Jamaica became so taxing that the police were forced to release a statement dispelling the accusations as baseless and mischievous.
Collier said on Instagram shortly after the police issued their statement that she did not say she had gone missing in Jamaica.
Even the United States Embassy, when asked to comment, stated that it was aware of reports of an American citizen who had recently travelled to Jamaica and claimed to have been held against their will.
But the embassy said drily: “The US government provides all appropriate consular services to US citizens in emergency situations overseas and fully investigates claims of unlawful detention. However, due to the Privacy Act of 1974, we cannot release any information about a US citizen without his or her written consent.”
A statement from Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett Sunday evening also accused Collier of peddling falsehoods.
Bartlett said Collier and her family have been in constant communication with representatives from his ministry as well as officials from the Ministry of Health, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and the hotel.
“I join the call by the police who are warning people to desist from sharing misleading social-media posts claiming Miss Collier has been kidnapped as sharing false information can constitute an offence under the law,” he said.
“It is fake news.”
Bartlett said he could also confirm that the Falmouth police had even visited the resort to verify that Collier was not being held under duress.