Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
AN ACCIDENT in St Ann on Saturday involving an illegal jet ski operator, has left a tourist seriously injured.
Reports reaching The Gleaner are that the man, a guest at a hotel in St Ann, was snorkelling in the vicinity of the hotel's beach when he was hit in the head by a speeding jet ski.
The man apparently lost consciousness and was stretchered to the hotel's lobby and then rushed to a medical facility in Montego Bay.
The Marine police in St Ann confirmed the incident but were unable to provide details of the incident, as investigations are ongoing.
On Monday, a source told The Gleaner that the man was scheduled to leave the island that afternoon.
"He has recovered sufficiently to fly and he should be just about now getting ready to fly out," said the source. It is unclear if the trip was a scheduled one or if the accident necessitated Monday's trip.
An alleged eyewitness to the accident told The Gleaner that the craft was rented from one of the several illegal jet ski operators that traverse the St Ann coastline daily and was rented by another guest at the hotel.
"He was speeding. He hit a guest who was snorkelling. When the rider realised what had happened, he sped away. The guest was rescued by some other persons in the water and was also assisted by the lifeguard. He couldn't move. He had to be placed on a stretcher and taken to the lobby and later taken to the hospital in an ambulance," The Gleaner was told.
The incident infuriated other guests on the beach.
"They were furious. There were a few jet ski men milling about. There are usually about 10 to 15 of them here, so the guests were furious and were chasing them away. They were very furious, very angry," the source said.
Outside of the licensed jet ski operators who operate from the Ocho Rios Bay Beach, persons involved in jet ski operations in St Ann are operating illegally. However, a police source said the hands of the lawmen are tied when it comes to seizing the vessels.
He said in a previous court case, the judge had ordered that vessels seized by the police be returned to the owners. With that precedent set, he said the cops cannot now seize the vessels even though they are being operated outside the law.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson at Tourism Product Development Company said there is need to have the operators licensed and regulated in order to avoid a recurrence.
"Every operator should have a tourism licence and this licence requires them to, among other things, operate from a specific location, have public liability insurance coverage, and the boat has to be licensed with the Maritime Authority of Jamaica and get a Maritime safety certificate," he said.