The organizers of the SOCA RAFF UP 2020 are apologizing to patrons over last night's event, following a mechanical issue on one of the boats.
But the organizers are claiming the picture painted by some of the patrons is an exaggerated version of what actually transpired.
SOCA RAFF UP 2020 up began at around 3pm on Sunday and was carded to run until 8pm on board the vessel called “The Embassy”.
However, at some point last night, party patrons sent an SOS via social media, alleging that part of the boat had begun sinking.
Speaking on CNC3's The Morning Brew today, Dwayne Gibson, one of the patrons, said approximately ninety minutes after boarding, the vessel began experiencing mechanical and electrical problems. He says it was at that point the boat began taking in water.
“So when the panic ensued and water started coming up to people’s feet, and they recognised it was an emergency situation, we were allowed to cross in batches [to the other boats],” Dwayne Gibson told us. “Within half hour, they brought a pump on to pump out the water from the boat, because the boat was—in fact—sinking.”
Dwayne Gibson said fearful for their lives, passengers—including himself—told the organizers they wanted to disembark. However, he said this was only done following the intervention of the Police Commissioner.
“I want to heavily condemn the reckless owners of these vessels because at that time, there were less than one hundred life jackets for a boat that had the capacity to carry 250 passengers, and taking on a hundred more people,” he stated. “You’re talking about 350 passengers on a boat that had less than a hundred life jackets. That is reckless endangerment of the citizens and patrons who subscribe to your boat and your event.”
He added: “Thanks to Mr Gary Griffith who came to our assistance, because it appeared that even the Coast Guard didn’t want to take the incident seriously. Commissioner Griffith insisted that we come off the boat immediately and we were allowed to disembark at Anchorage.”
Meanwhile, organizer of the event, Gleeson Jobe, admitted to Guardian Media that there were some challenges on the boat.
However, he maintains they were minor.
“There was no issue,” he told us. “The boat wasn’t sinking. Somebody called and said the boat was sinking and there was water up to your knees. All of these things were false. That was not the case. We had the situation totally under control.”
He explained there was a minor issue with the pump.
“Based on the load that was on the back of the boat [The Embassy] as they were going across to the other boat, the water was coming in a little faster, and the pump was just moving the water a little slower,” Gleeson Jobe explained. “In that case, what they said to us was that we needed to either have people move back to the front of the boat, to give us a few minutes so the pump could get rid of some of that water.
Jobe denied claims that there were insufficient safety gear for patrons.
He said a meeting is being held with all of the organizers to discuss the incident.
Story by BAVITA GOPAULCHAN