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Boy, 5, drowns at Debe waterpark


Damarie Jeffery,5, and his mother, Anika George, in an undated photo. Damarie drowned at the FunSplash Waterpark in Debe on Sunday. –

“DO NOT cast blame for the tragedy,” is the appeal by the family of five-year-old Damari Jeffery and the owner of the Fun Splash Waterpark in Debe, where the pre-schooler drowned Sunday.

The boy’s family has been accused of negligence on social media.

However, his distraught grandmother, Laura Jeremiah, said her daughter, Damari’s mother, Anika George, “is a most responsible parent.”

George teaches a kindergarten class at Servol, Point Fortin.

“When it comes to her four children, she doesn’t play,” Jeremiah said in an interview at the family’s Basta Hall home, La Brea, on Monday.

“This happened in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what happened. Children and their parents were having fun in the water when Damari was discovered by his mother in the adult pool.”

“At the spur of the moment, children just slip through and things happen. You can’t blame his mother.”

In a phone interview, Vijay Ramai, the waterpark’s owner, agreed.

“We are all human beings and when we are faced with tragedy, we try to blame other people. We can’t be looking to blame anybody.

“This was an accident. It must be treated as an accident,” Ramai emphasised.

He said there were pool attendants who were trained to perform first aid and they tried their best to save Damari.

Damari and his family were at the waterpark for a cousin’s birthday. Toddler Shamiya Gooding had turned two. Jeremiah said her granddaughter’s birthday would always be blemished by her grandson’s death.

“I now have to celebrate a birth and a death on the same day.”

Damari’s mother could not stop crying and her grandmother, Monica Jeremiah, collapsed from the stress of losing her great-grandson and hit her head. She now has to do a CT scan to determine if there is any damage.

Jeremiah said Shamiya’s mother, Earlisha Derrel, arranged to celebrate her daughter’s birthday at the waterpark.

She said Damari loved the water. His two elder sisters opted not to go.

Two hours after they were at the waterpark, tragedy struck.

A police report said around 4.20 pm, while playing in the water, Damari’s mother found his motionless body in the adult pool.

Attempts were made to resuscitate him by pool attendants and later by emergency health technicians.

He was taken by ambulance to the San Fernando General Hospital where further efforts failed to revive him. He was pronounced dead around 6.16 pm.

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His body was removed to the mortuary pending an autopsy on Tuesday.

PC Rambarran of the San Fernando police station is continuing investigations.

Jeremiah recalled their anguish around the pool as the family cried and prayed for her grandson.

“I have faith, but I am only human. It hurts. I am asking God to take hold of me because I have to stand up and support my daughter and my mother.”

Ramai expressed sadness at the tragic incident.

“It is the first time something like this has happened in the 16 years of the waterpark’s existence.

“We will be reaching out to the family and demonstrate our condolences, to stay with the family as they go through their grief cycle if we are allowed to stay and provide whatever assistance we can.

“We understand a grief cycle has different stops to it and the first one is shock and then is anger. I think they are between shock and anger. Sometimes we talk to the wrong people and the first thing they want to do is to lash out at you.

“We are not backing out from our corporate social responsibility

“The loss of a life is a big, big thing and we are very, very sorry for what took place.”