Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has pledged to assist in providing support for the families of two firefighters who lost their lives in a motor vehicle accident along the Laughlands main road in St Ann on September 13.
Alex Williams and Stephan Walters were heading home from work after dropping off another Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) colleague, when the accident occurred.
Both firefighters, who were in their twenties, were assigned to the Ocho Rios Fire station in St. Ann.
During a visit to the station on Friday (September 17) to offer support to their bereaved colleagues, Minister McKenzie indicated that assistance will be provided to cover the late firefighters’ funeral expenses.
“I will be doing everything in my powers to ensure that… their families receive the best possible support. We will do what is necessary to ensure that the families are not stressed too much in terms of all that is necessary [for the funeral arrangements]. So, I’m giving them the full assurance that I will work closely with [JFB] Commissioner [Stewart Beckford] to ensure that that is done,” he said.
Mr. McKenzie, who also expressed condolences to the late firefighters’ families, noted that their untimely passing has left a pall of gloom over the JFB.
He informed that discussions are underway with the JFB’s hierarchy in relation to providing logistical support to firefighters working long hours to “help to mitigate against any further loss of life under those circumstances”.
“I am going to engage the leadership of the Brigade as to how we can treat with situations that can prevent fire firefighters, after completing long shifts, to get home without them having to be sitting behind a wheel,” Mr. McKenzie indicated.
He added that “it is a discussion that has already started with the Commissioner, and I intend to have the Board engaged some more to see how best this can be done.”
For her part, JFB Assistant Commissioner in charge of Area 2, Julian Davis-Buckle, told JIS News that the firefighters, who worked closely with Messers Williams and Walters, have been receiving counselling.
“We have been getting some good help from counsellors and the [Ministers’] fraternal in St. Ann and St. Mary, in counselling and treating with the grief of our firefighters,” she indicated.
Mrs. Davis-Buckle said the JFB’s regional management and corporate management “[are] doing all that we can to keep them ‘afloat’”.
“We know we have a commitment to the people of Jamaica; so, we have to ensure that we balance the grief and our service delivery at the same time,” she stated.