Head of the country’s national security, His Excellency Governor Nigel Dakin has categorically denied rumours that the Sea Guardian - the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force Marine Branch vessel - rammed a packed sloop ferrying undocumented Haitian Migrants to these shores.
Governor Dakin, during a news conference on Thursday, December 9, at the Premier’s Office in Providenciales, stated that there are rumours that it was the police boat that struck the laden sloop causing it to sink, resulting in at least seven of the migrants losing their lives.
“On the night of Monday 29th November, a sloop arrived, from Haiti, off the North West Point of TCI where a Maritime Patrol vessel, vectored in by our radar, sought to take it under control.
“There was a collision. What I can categorically say – because I’m aware rumour is in the marketplace – is that the police vessel did not ‘ram’ the sloop,” he said, revealing that there is evidence that confirms the contrary.
“Images show the police vessel sustained damage mid-ships close to where the skipper sits. The Police vessel was hit rather than visa-versa,” he emphasized.
He said Acting Commissioner of Police, Kendal Grant has asked the United Kingdom investigators to further probe the incident.
“The full narrative however will become clear because, given the loss of life, and as a matter of necessary routine, the Commissioner has asked the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch to add expert advice to an investigation to determine exactly what happened that night,” Governor Dakin continued.
He said the police displayed the highest level of professionalism during the interception and the rescue.
“But while that (accident) occurs, what is already clear is that the four Maritime Police Officers on Sea Guardian were about to make a set of decisions that saw them act in the very highest traditions of those who serve at sea.
“What they saw unfolding in front of them was the sloop quickly taking on water and chaos and fear gripping those on the sinking vessel amongst dangerous reefs. You can imagine the pitch-black sky and sea only lit up by the Police Vessels lights,” Governor Dakin pointed out, further stating that a second police vessel later joined the rescue operation.
“They were joined by the three crew of Sea Pursuit – who had quickly deployed - and between them they all delivered an outstanding search and rescue operation. Eighty are alive because of it. Last week they were genuinely the ‘magnificent seven’,” Governor Dakin stated.
Describing the seven officers as ‘heroes’, Governor Dakin said they represent the very best in fighting the illegal human trafficking ring between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“They are where the ‘strategic rubber’, if you like, ‘hits the operational road’. I met with them today to express my personal thanks,” Governor Dakin stated.
He added: “It’s because of seven Police Officers that 80 people are alive. We must praise God for the migrant’s salvation, but we must also thank these officers for what they did. We all want to make a difference in the job we do, but few can say that what they do genuinely makes such a profound difference – a difference between life and death.”
Governor Dakin stated that some of the officers who responded to the alert of the sloop’s arrival were in fact not on duty, but have dedicated their lives to keeping the TCI safe.
“While the events of the last week stand out, it is worth saying that the officers I’m referring to - as well as others who were not on duty that night – deploy every night - while we are asleep to protect our borders, and through that protect our society.
“In this, I often think of them as the guardians of the dawn, because one of my very first actions on waking up is to pick up my phone and catch up on their activities overnight,” the governor added.