Freeport, Grand Bahama
THREE container port workers are confirmed dead and several others were seriously injured when two terrifying tornadoes struck Grand Bahama yesterday.
The tornadoes touched down around 11.30am, one at the Freeport Container Port and a second in the Lucaya area.
According to reports, workers from the port’s engineering department were carrying out a maintenance check at the time on gantry crane Number 10 when the tornado hit.
It is understood the dead men were Mike Young, who is believed to be in his 40s, and married with two children, Cleve Lowe, and Sean Saunders.
A fourth person may have been inside the crane which was submerged underwater. Divers were last night searching for more victims.
Emergency Medical Personnel, Fire Rescue, Police, and BASRA were immediately dispatched to the container port around noon after receiving a call from port officials of major casualties at the facility.
Grand Bahamas Health Services administrator Sharon Williams told The Tribune that Rand Memorial Hospital was alerted and immediately mobilised a response team to the scene.
She said: “We received information that there were mass casualties, involving 10 persons.”
At the hospital, family members and relatives gathered in the waiting area near the accident and emergency section after learning news of the tragedy.
About five workers were injured and taken to hospital for medical treatment.
In a press release issued by Freeport Container Port, CEO Gary Gilbert and FCP Director Godfrey Smith expressed the company’s deepest sympathy to the families of the three employees killed.
They also offered the company’s prayers for the full and complete recovery of those injured and currently being treated.
“It is our hope that these persons recover fully from their injuries,” said Mr Smith. “We grieve with the families of those who lost their lives today, and we regret the loss of life of anyone. We are deeply saddened by the incident that took the lives of our employees.”
Mr Smith said that until all families of those injured are notified and updated on their condition, the company will not release the names.
“All employees have been accounted for, and further details on the incident will be released following a full investigation by the relevant authorities,” Mr Smith stated in the release.
He also noted that the incident caused an interruption in service at Freeport Container Port.
When The Tribune arrived at the port, the front entrance had been blocked off by security personnel.
No one was allowed to enter the compound, not even shift workers who had reported for work.
About 20 employees were standing outside, huddled in the rain, waiting on some word from officials. They were scheduled to work the 2pm shift.
Off in the distance, all of the cranes were still standing, except the Number 10 crane.
“We heard about what happened, and you can see from here that the Number 10 crane has fallen. No-one inside could have survived,” one worker pointed out.
“I tried calling in but nobody wants to tell us anything, and they ain’t letting us in there,” the worker said.
Freeport Container Port is a-24 hour operation. With a workforce of about 800, it is one of the largest employers on the island.
“The operation at container never stops,” said another worker. “We work rain or shine in any kind of weather.
“We don’t feel good about what happened to our colleagues, and some of the workers who were here when it happened left traumatised.
“We never expected that those cranes could fall because they are very big and strong.”
The second tornado touched down in the Lucaya area, where a few homes, an apartment building, and a real estate business sustained major damage.
The tornado also caused damage at the Island Seas Resort, where some tourists were injured.
Several huge trees were uprooted and large tree branches had fallen on the road, near Port Lucaya. The bus stop on the south bound lane near Port Lucaya was also blown down into nearby bushes.
Bert Bain, a golf course attendant at Our Lucaya Resort, witnessed the tornado. He said it occurred around 11.30am.
“It sounded like a freight train and it lasted for about 15 seconds. There were six of us locked into a bathroom for protection,” he said.
After it was over, he said they began assessing the damage.
Mr Bain reported that a portion of the roof at Thompson Real Estate had also blown off on to the Lucaya golf course. He said the roof of a two-storey house near the golf course had also blown off.
The tornado also caused power outages to most of the island, including Queens Cove, Eight Mile Rock, West End, and at Queens Highway. Outages also occurred in Freeport at Coral Road and East Sunrise Highway.
Power was restored to most areas by the evening.
The incident has left many people traumatised. Some were reliving their experiences on internet sites.
A young man had told a friend on Facebook that he was now an orphan because his father was one of the persons who died.
Passengers on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow to Miami last told of their terror when their aircraft was forced to fly through the storm as it headed across the Atlantic.
One said: “It was five hours non-stop terror. The plane was going up, then falling down, then going left to right.
“People were being sick and screaming. Then there were moments of absolute silence because of the fear of what was going to happen next.
“Outside it was pitch black. I’ve never eperienced anything like it in my life.”
Category: Accident Report