DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Chester Cooper.
By JADE RUSSELL
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Chester Cooper said an investigation will be launched into the drowning of a tourist at Ocean Cay, adding safety measures will be “beefed” if needed.
Mr Cooper’s comments came after the drowning of 26-year-old Guyanese national, Akeem Charles at Ocean Cay, a private island in The Bahamas owned by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) cruise line. Family members claimed that the beach on the artificial island is unsafe and that the lack of CPR training for the lifeguard on duty may have contributed to their loved one’s death last month.
Mr Cooper, who also serves as the deputy prime minister, said the Ministry of Tourism is always concerned when there is a death involving tourists.
“Whenever there is a death or incident involving a tourist the Ministry of Tourism is always keenly engaged and concerned. Wherever there’s a death of a resident or a visitor the government of The Bahamas would also be concerned. And would always investigate through the proper authorities,” he said during an Office of the Prime Minister press briefing.
“We have an active engagement unit for guest services. And our first reaction is always the well-being of the family. We reach out to them. We ensure that we are able to help them facilitate the tragedy that they may experience, and we ensure that there is full engagement with all of the authorities to ensure adequate investigations, etc. But also, to assure the families that The Bahamas is a safe place to visit. And indeed, that we are a compassionate people and always very concerned if something goes wrong,” Mr Cooper said.
Mr Cooper said when there is a large number of people congregating regrettably incidents sometimes do happen, adding it’s not unique to any tourist destination.
He added that he anticipates in the final analysis the investigation will be done and the appropriate communication will be made.
When further pressed on the family’s claim that the lifeguard at Ocean Cay did not know how to properly perform CPR, Mr Cooper declined to comment. He said it is a matter for the police to investigate.
“If there is a need to beef up safety measures here or anywhere across the country. I’m absolutely sure that will be done, and the Ministry of Tourism will consistently work with all of our stakeholders.”
However, Mr Cooper revealed there is a shortage of lifeguards across the country. He encouraged young people seeking employment to reach out to the Ministry of Tourism for a chance to be a trained lifeguard.
“The Tourism Development Cooperation in the last 12 months has trained more than 100 lifeguards. This is an area of opportunity for Bahamians. There is a significant shortage of lifeguards across the country. When we travel to private islands, we see lifeguards from as far as the Philippines. So young people across the country who may be seeking employment in the tourism space should reach out to the Tourism Development Corporation. I’m sure in due course will be put on another training session for lifeguards.”