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Police officers break down as colleague speaks about his missing daughter

Police officers break down as colleague speaks about his missing daughter

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With reality setting in that his daughter’s body may never be found, Station Sergeant Hezron Ballantyne says he is being kept strong by prayer.

“I must say this is a difficult time for me. I have 20 years experience in the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF).{{more}} I have dealt with situations, but nothing has touched me like this,” Ballantyne told reporters during a police press conference on Wednesday.

“I am still suffering the pain of not seeing my daughter…. It is most painful for me and my family.”

Wednesday was the first time that Ballantyne has spoken publicly since his daughter, 13-year-old Simonique Ballantyne went following a vehicular accident on January 12 at Rock Gutter, Owia.

Painfully recalling the events of that fateful day, Ballantyne said he was at Calliaqua and had just finished ironing a pair of pants in preparation for work, when he received a call from his best friend, Henry Hoyte.

“He asked me if I heard what happened and I told him no. He told me that he heard the school van turn over and his wife died,” Ballanytne recalled.

Ballanytne said he could not believe what he had heard, but the next phone call was to be even more devastating. “I received a call from my brother-in-law and his exact words to me, ‘Perry, Simonique and Perissa (another of Ballantyne’s daughters) dead. The van turn over with them’,” Ballantyne related.

“When he told me that, he began crying. So I screamed out on the phone and began crying. I remember I had some of my colleagues there and I throw myself on the bed where I usually sleep and they consoled me.”

He added that he began thinking that once one of his daughters was in the van, the other had to be there too.

“I know they are very close. My daughter Perissa usually stays at Barrouallie during the week because of the distance from home. She is a student at the Girls’ High School and I know once she is at home and her sister (Simonique) is travelling with that van on Monday morning, she will travel with the van,” Ballantyne said.

As the cloud of uncertainty darkened around Ballantyne about his daughters’ whereabouts, he said he received another telephone call from one of his superiors.

“Superintendent Browne called and sent a transport for me. He told me to leave my vehicle, because my intention was to leave for Rock Gutter as soon as possible to see what I’m hearing is true,” he said.

As he made his way to Rock Gutter, Ballantyne said he received another telephone call – this time from his wife.

“I really couldn’t believe I lost my kids. I still had hoped that it was not true. My wife scream out and told me what had happened…,” he added.

Ballantyne then received what was to be the first good news of the day. He received a call from his brother, who told him that Perissa had travelled to town with Ballantyne’s stepfather that morning.

“I told him that I am hearing different. He said ‘No, Daddy just told me Perissa just came down… I got a Whatsapp message from my sister who told me that Perissa is at Calliaqua Police Station’.”

Ballantyne immediately contacted the station and received the news that he was hoping to hear.

Perissa was alive and well. At that moment, Ballantyne said he began believing that Simonique too, was alive.

“When I heard Perissa is safe, I had all reason to believe that both of them were safe… I went straight to the scene and I immediately saw my father-in-law and he began crying.”

It was then, Ballantyne received confirmation that Simonique was one of the passengers of the bus.

“He told me Simonique was in the water. At that stage, I broke down and start crying. I console myself and I went and looked over and saw the bodies of some young students from Fancy in the water. I felt helpless.”

“Knowing me and knowing the kind of work I do, I am always there to help and I was unable to do so because of the challenging tide at the time,” Ballantyne related as his wife, who sat to his right, drew closer to him.

Ballantyne said while he stood there and looked on, he refused to believe that his daughter was one of those involved in the accident.

With his voice breaking as he related his story, the hierarchy of the local constabulary, and even one of the reporters could be seen wiping their eyes. Some even placed their elbows on the desk and covered their faces.

Ballantyne stated that he then sent a police officer to Owia to check to see if his daughter was one of the survivors.

“He called me from the Owia Police Station and told me that they have no name of her there. I still did not believe until I saw nurse Greaves who dealt with these survivors at the clinic and she told me that my daughter was not one of the survivors,” he said.

Reminiscing about the last time he spoke with his daughter, Ballantyne said they had a conversation on January 8 about school work.

“This was only so because I had to leave for duty on the Friday morning. I had worked for the weekend. I was expecting to meet my family on Monday evening. Every other weekend, I am off…”

Ballantyne expressed gratitude for the support from the prime minister and his government, the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force and other persons who have prayed for him and his family.

He also thanked attorney Grant Connell who assisted, having being given permission by the Commissioner of Police, with the search efforts.

Up to press time, officials of the SVG Coast Guard said they were still searching for Simonique and Chanstacia Stay, another student who was involved in the accident, but is still missing.(KW)

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