Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
HECTOR'S RIVER, Portland:
ABOUT 22 years ago, a truck went over a cliff and landed in the sea at Hector's River, Portland. According to residents, nine people were killed. Only an arm belonging to one of them was found near an area called Sharks' Rock.
In October 1990, an American tourist, 34-year-old screenwriter Terry Runte, was robbed and beaten after dropping home two female friends. His body was allegedly thrown into the sea at Sharks' Rock, but it was never found. Two men were convicted for his disappearance, one for murder, and the other for manslaughter.
Now, Hector's River is poised for another tragedy.
The stretch of road, where the truck went over the cliff, not far from Happy Grove High School, unknown to many people, runs only a few feet from the cliff which rises several feet from the sea, which can be very turbulent, and is said to be shark-infested.
The edge of the cliff at certain sections is where vehicles drive, but it wouldn't appear so because of the grass, bushes, and thickets that line the road. Quite a deception it is. The vegetation at the spot where the truck went over is even lower than the others.
Thus, for whatever reason, on this pothole-riddled stretch, should a vehicle swerve or get out of control, it could end up on the rocks or in the sea below. The vegetation cannot buffer it, and what appears to be a stone wall at one section is not. It's just a very narrow strip of rock lining the cliff, left after the road was cut through the cliff decades ago.
But the situation is even more frightening when viewed from the sea. The base of the cliff is battered every day by aggressive waves, and there is constant marine erosion going on. Huge boulders and truncated stacks in one area are evidence of this. There are many little caves in the cliff sides just below the road; a huge one seems to go several feet inwards under the road. There are also signs of land slippage as there are areas where parts of the cliff seem to have collapsed into the sea because the base is constantly being undermined.
Residents who alerted Rural Express to the precarious situation said for years there have been talks that the road would be diverted to run behind the staff quarters of Happy Grove High School. One man said as far back as 50 years ago, he had heard the 'rumours'.
Yet, it is true that the coastline in the area is a very picturesque sight, typical of the Portland coast. But around and about the beauty and the idyllic scenery, another cliff-hanger might be about to unfold, sooner or later. Danger lurks, waiting to hold a life, or more, in its deathly embrace.
A jackass that was in earshot when the discussion was taking place between Rural Express and some residents brayed loudly as if to say, true word. Soon after, it was on its back and sides, wallowing in the wet grass. The joy before the sorrow?