BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - A breakdown in communication has been identified as the cause for family members being unaware that their loved ones were to be cremated in St. Kitts.
The cremation, which took place sometime in June, was that of three Cameroon nationals - two males and a female - who had perished at sea in the wee hours of Tuesday, March 28, 2023.
While appearing on the Phoenix Free Press show on Saturday evening (Jul. 22), relatives of one of the males had criticized the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Cromwell Henry, for not informing them about the cremation, as they were told that the three bodies would be buried.
The DCP is now clearing the air on what exactly transpired that led to what is being termed an accidental cremation.
During a conversation with SKNVibes News, the DCP explained that it was not a case of the police not properly communicating with the relatives, but rather a “breakdown in communication on our side, the police side”, since he was consistently updating the family members.
“Yes, I was in communication with the relatives of two of the deceased,” Henry acknowledged. “Yes, I did indicate to them that we would have some form of burial service, and they would be notified when such is to happen.”
However, that was not the case as the relatives were only informed after the fact, to which they expressed shock and dismay, as well as their fellow Cameroonians who are still in the St. Kitts and Nevis.
“While I was planning the funeral service with the Social Services Department, Azilla Clarke to be exact, the funeral home would have called the Head of the CID - the investigator who was investigating the whole incident - and informed him that the bodies were in a bad state of decomposition and they wanted them out of the funeral home,” explained DCP Henry.
It was at that point that the breakdown in communication across the Police Force started.
“The Head of the CID would have called the Commissioner to give him that information. The Commissioner would have just indicated that he would have already given instructions to have the bodies buried. While I was in the process of planning and the Head of the CID was not aware of it, he went ahead and made arrangements for the bodies to be cremated,” Henry said.
At the time of realising the breakdown, the cremation had already taken place.
With that being said, another problem has arisen. The family is now requesting the police to send the ashes and soil samples to them in Cameroon.
While the Police Force is open to having the family be in possession of the ashes, they are not willing to foot the bill to have it shipped to the African nation.
According to Henry, they have already expended a lot of resources in dealing with the situation, which was meant for crime fighting. He disclosed that more that EC$30,000 have been utilized thus far, and to ship the ashes, as requested by the family, is unfair to the Police Force.
“I told them that we have the ashes in our possession and what they would want us to do. In fact, we have spent considerable amounts of money out of our budget - the police budget. This was monies allocated for our operations to fight crime - and we used this money on these people. It cost us over $30,000, those three bodies, to dispose of in terms of storage and cremation,” explained the DCP.
He added, “Those monies could have gone to do a lot of things in terms of fighting crime.”
Despite the challenges surrounding the operations since the incident, the DCP said that the Police Force has learnt a number of things, including that they have to update their policies and guidelines for similar occurrences.
“I think we need to develop protocols and exact procedures on how and what should happen, so that we have book that we can follow,” the DCP stated.
Henry reiterated that the police had no intention of misleading the family as the relatives projected, noting that the Prime Minister had already committed to having a funeral and giving the deceased a proper and dignified send off.
“It was not a case like the lady was trying to project that while we were telling them that we were going to arrange a funeral we were going to cremate the body! I would object to that! We had no intention of misleading them. Indeed, the Prime Minister had indicated that that would happen, and we were on the path of doing that.”
On March 28 this year, motor vessel Jenna B carrying 32 passengers had capsized off the coast of St. Kitts on the Atlantic side. On arrival at the scene, emergency responders and vessels had found three dead and 13 were drifting at sea.
Reportedly, it was said that the occupants aboard the vessel were attempt to travel to the United States Virgin Islands enroute to mainland US.