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Heroes recall epic Sunny Side rescue mission

Published:Wednesday | August 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMRuddy Mathison
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) listens to Nordia Lewin (right), who was rescued by Jermaine Riley (second left) from floodwaters in the Sunny Side community of Linstead, St Catherine, during the heavy May rains.
Jermaine Riley
Ramone Peart

The heroic actions of Jermaine Riley, his brother, Jamawno Riley, and friend, Ramone Peart, which saved the lives of seven people during the May 16 flood rains in Sunny Side, Linstead, St Catherine, will long be remembered by community members who describe them as Sunny Side's finest.

The three men risked their lives to carry out an epic rescue of the seven people - two infants, their mother, two teenage daughters, and an elderly couple - who were trapped in their homes with ten feet of rising water gushing through.

"We worked as a team," said 25-year-old Jermaine Riley, whose brother has since left the island to work in The Cayman Islands.

"The rains were falling for three days, and on the third morning, I woke up to see water coming into my house."

According to him, he knew right away that the community was in for some serious flooding because the nearby river was overflowing its banks.

"It was about 3 a.m. when the water started to rise. By the time we could get everything in our house to the top floor, the entire downstairs was filled with water," Riley revealed.




Riley told The Gleaner that he and his brother swam from their house to a point outside where they could stand in waters that were up to their necks.

"We were joined by Ramone, who was coming to see if we were OK," stated Riley, adding that they heard shouts coming from the elderly couple, who were trapped in their house, and the adjoining neighbour, who had two infants and two teenage girls, who were calling out to be rescued.

Riley said that they could not swim against the force of the gushing water to get to the couple and the family of five, so they devised a plan to go to the top of the rushing floodwaters and allow themselves to be carried to the houses that were partly submerged.

He said that the force of the water, which, by this time, could have covered them twice if they had attempted to stand, was so strong that they could not get to the houses.

"We were lucky to get a piece of rope thrown to us by a neighbour whose ground floor was flooded to the roof."

Riley disclosed that they were able to tie one end of the rope to the top of a light pole and extended it to one of the houses and affixed it to the iron grill.

"From here, we were able to carry the two infants first to safety followed by the elderly couple and then the teenagers and their mother," he said.


Men awarded national honours for their bravery

For their heroic act, Ramone Peart, Jamawno Riley, and Jermaine Riley have all been awarded national honours for gallantry. They went above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of seven neighbours, who were trapped in their houses in floodwaters in Sunny Side in Linstead, St Catherine, during the May heavy rains.

Peart shared that it was their duty to act because they did not want any of their neighbours to die.

"I had to risk my own life to make sure that these people did not drown," he told The Gleaner, suggesting that he would do it again if he had to.

Riley, who shared the sentiments of his friend, said, "A system should be put in place to train a team of lifeguards from the area who can respond to these emergencies since this area is prone to this kind of flooding."

Chairman of the disaster committee in Linstead, Lance Chung, in praising the three, said: "They are the finest. It was their thoughtfulness and bravery why we did not lose these folks."