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Death on the cliff

Coastguard divers after calling off the search.

by Emmanuel Joseph

He would have been 18 years old tomorrow, but those special plans the family of Akeem Hackett of Joes River Tenantry, St. Joseph had in place to celebrate that birthday, will now focus on his funeral. Akeem, also known as Satan, went fishing last evening with five friends from his community, but at around 11 last night, he disappeared in the choppy waters off Long Beach, Christ Church after he apparently fell from the top of a cliff behind the Paragon Base of the Barbados Defence Force.

Soon after the alarm was sounded by Akeem’s friends, a search for his body, which started that the same night by personnel from the police and Barbados Fire Service, went into this morning, but without success.

The Barbados Coast Guard took over the search in the late morning, however, it was called off just before 1 p.m. due to unfavourable sea conditions. The coast guard reported that there was†nothing more they could have done to try to retrieve the teenager’s body, and would monitor the sea conditions to determine if the search would resume tomorrow.

The scene today was transformed into intense grieving as tears flowed freely from the eyes of Akeem’s mother, Corleta Hackett, one of his aunt’s Sharon Hackett, other family members and friends. As the young man’s mother sat in the back of a parked police vehicle being consoled by close relatives and friends, the five men who shared the final minutes with Akeem on their fishing expedition, fanned out across the rugged terrain and along the one mile beach coast hoping to see their buddy’s body.

His fishing mate, identified only as Chimp, who was the last to see Akeem fall over the cliff and tried to save him, related the final dramatic moments.

“Akeem was excited, shouting, that he had nuff fish. He said, ‘I never had so much fish yet’.†Then I went over toward him and saw the bucket he was sitting on had fall down. So I hollah, Akeem, Akeem,” recalled his close friend.

The man, who described Akeem as his “dawg”, an affectionate term for best friend, remembered then seeing his mate rolling down toward the edge of the cliff as his body appeared to be “fluttering and jumping”.

“I grabble at he to hol’ he back as he continued to roll toward the edge of the cliff. But suddenly I feel another hand grab me. It was my other buddy, telling me, ‘You don’t know ’bout down dey’. So Akeem, I couldn’t catch he and when he fall over, I was hollering Akeem, Akeem, Akeem, but I ain’t get nuh response,” he continued.

The witness to the tragedy related, too, that his friend had left blood behind at the top of the cliff, an indication he had probably hit his head after going into an epileptic seizure, triggered by his over excitement from catching a large number of fish.

Near the foot of the cliff is a ledge on which Akeem would have landed before being swallowed up by the sea, his friends pointed out.

His mother told this newspaper that her son, the oldest of five children and one of three sons, last suffered a seizure a long time ago, when he was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

One of Akeem’s cousins, known as Bubbler, said she recalled holding him when his last seizure occurred at age three. She said, though that she was not certain if he had gone into another one this time, or whether it was some other ailment.

She pointed out that Akeem recently complained of chest pains and vomiting. The missing young man’s mother had planned to go to the City tomorrow to buy new clothes for his birthday, while his cousin informed us the family was planning to take him out. She said Akeem was also expected to take up a new job in a few weeks.

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