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Saved by the bell

This was no job for the faint of heart, but veteran contractor Ronald Robinson and this engineer had to dangle 60 feet in the air from this crane in order to assess and begin correcting damage done to the bell tower at St. Catherine’s Anglican Church 24 hours earlier by a lightning strike.

by Davidson Bowen

It was with the finesse and skill of threading a needle that the almost 300-year-old bell was hoisted from its tower in the St. Catherine Anglican Church this afternoon.

Contractor Robbie Robinson and an engineer, dangling 60 feet in the air at the mercy of a crane operator from Crane and Tractor Equipment made the job look relatively easy – assessing the damaging, determining the best course of action and having the bell safely on the ground before any other damage was done.

On Tuesday night, two searching bolts of lightning struck the St. Philip community and left them praying that the impending weather does not bring with it a recurrence of the jolt of nature that left the 90-year-old Anglican Church damaged and many residents trembling.

After hearing a ripping noise and seeing what many have confirmed as a ball of fire, startled residents were then left in awe as they witnessed lightning skipping from house to house.

“My mother was just screaming and when my son got her calmed down she said a ball of fire flash through the house. She heard this sheering noise like something ripping apart and then this ball of fire flash through the house. You could actually see this thing moving through the church from house to house and the bright dancing light. Then there was another one that we saw moving going over the sea,” said resident, Marva Cossy.

“The bell probably attracted the lightning. But while the church has been damaged if that bolt of lightning had hit a house out here first you can imagine it could have been a lot worse,” she said, adding that a few persons have reported computers and other appliances being damaged.

This afternoon Archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados, Eric Lynch, said urgent work had to be done to safeguard not only the building but passers-by.

“We have to make a determination and something definitely has to be done today, especially with impending weather. It is only by the grace of God that more serious damage has not been done and we are glad for that. But as it is something has to be done with the bell tower and my suggestion is to have it removed at this point.

“With that done we can then look at covering the area so too much moisture is not absorbed by the limestone. And we could possibly get a generator to power the organ for service on Sunday if persons believe that is needed. But we need to make the area safe first and with that done we will not have to displace an entire congregation,” said Lynch.

Rural Dean for the Christ Church Deanery under which that church falls, Rev. Austin Carrington said there seemed to have been some misunderstanding due to reports in the media about what has been proposed at St. Catherine.

“We are not in any way seeking to do away with the tower of the church and change its architecture. Our focus at this time is to make the place safe because right now it is not. Children play in that yard; cars are parked in that yard, the church in on a hill. You would appreciate the likelihood of falling debris rolling and damaging other things or even people.

“Our aim is to make the area first and foremost safe and I believe it is very possible that the people of St. Catherine will be able to meet as usual for worship on Sunday,” Carrington said.

He also pointed out that the issue of rewiring the church also had to be looked at since the electrical wiring was severely damaged in the lightning strike.

Priest-in-charge of the church, Rev. Ryan Boyce, said while he was shocked by the damaged sustained he was thanking God it was not any more serious.

“We have sockets that have exploded off the wall, conduit and trunking that have been destroyed, pieces of the roof that were knocked off and a small fire what was start in my office that apparently started from electricity in the telephone line causing one of my robes to catch fire,” said Boyce.

After the bell was removed this afternoon the engineers on site made the decision to use the crane to lower as much of the tower before the expected bad weather causes it to fall on the building and result in further damage.

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