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The relative of a Saint Lucian man, Lance Robert Gerald, missing at sea for one week now, are still hopeful that their loved one will return home alive though the search has been suspended.
Benjamin Emmanuel, alias ‘Benji, a 30-year-old resident of Marigot was rescued by a ferry on Tuesday, April 30. Two others — 31-year-old Gerald of The Gulf in Ciceron, Castries, and Sherwin ‘CJ’ Henry, who is believed to be in his 20s — are still missing.
Reports are that the trio left Gros Islet, Saint Lucia on Monday, April 29, around 10 p.m., on a “fishing expedition” between their home country and St. Vincent and the Grenadines when their boat developed mechanical issues and was capsized by a large wave. Sources said Emmanuel alleged that he and his companions managed to hold on to items from the capsized boat but he eventually lost track of Gerald and Henry.
The following day, Emmanuel was rescued by a L’Express des Iles which contacted the Saint Lucia Fire Service around 4 p.m., and he was transported by ambulance to Victoria Hospital in stable condition.
Since Emmanuel’s dramatic rescue, which was captured on video and went viral, a number of agencies from Saint Lucia, Curacao, and the Regional Security System (RSS), conducted a number of aerial and ‘surface’ searches. But having made no progress, the authorities collectively ended the searches on Thursday afternoon.
However the family members of Lance Gerald told St. Lucia News Online that they believe Gerald and his friend are alive, and the authorities should have never given up searching.
“We are not blaming the authorities for not finding them but we only urge them to keep trying,” said Gil Williams, brother of Gerald. “The person who was found was not rescued by the coast guard but by a vessel travelling to and from Martinique.”
Williams added: “I think the authorities do their job. They are hardworking, respectable heroes, doing what they have to in order to protect our country and to keep our waters safe.
“We’re only asking that they don’t give up on the search because we have hope for Lance and CJ (Sherwin Henry), and if our heroes give up then we feel like we have no hope and hope is what’s keeping us going.
“I still think that there’s a chance that both Lance and CJ are just waiting to be rescued. Any family would have the same feelings toward a missing member.”
Many on social media have been questioning whether the men were actually fishermen. Some were bold to infer that the men were up to something sinister, to have gone “fishing” so late in the night.
Asked about his thoughts on this perception, Williams replied: “That is always the perception by our small-minded country. We are too quick to judge. And if one person says they weren’t fishermen then we all go on that basis, and we then have our coastguards /heroes thinking ‘oh well’ . My question to anyone who feels negative about these men, who were unfortunate to have this problem in the ocean, is what would you say about your family member if they did come face to face with such an incident?”
Williams was asked if he has any knowledge of the men bringing boating safety equipment and necessities with them as required by law, and he said: “I live in England and I cannot comment on the safety precautions needed by all fishermen in Saint Lucia. It is definitely something that needs to be looked into with our fishing community.”
Another sibling is also hopeful.
Lance Gerald’s sister, Gillianna Jallim, told St. Lucia News Online she still believes her brother is alive.
“In my heart he is alive, he is so strong,” she said.
Jallim said she last spoke to her brother on Whatsapp on Sunday, April 28, shortly after 11 p.m.
“We’re not sure what to do since the search was stopped,” she said. “And it hurts because everyone is talking about it, asking questions.”
She believes the search was suspended too fast.
“They gave up so easily, everybody mad at them,” she remarked.
The sister said an officer told her that “they rescued one but two died; they assumed because they couldn’t find them”.
“It hurts. I can hardly eat or sleep,” she said.
Jallim said her brother is a loving father of two children, a one-year-old daughter and a four-year-old boy.