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Sea claims life of Grammar School Young Leader

Sea claims life of Grammar School Young Leader

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Students and teachers of the St Vincent Grammar School are mourning the loss of fourth form student Akeili Latham, who died on Saturday after experiencing difficulties when swimming at Lower Bay, Bequia.

Latham, a resident of North Union, had travelled to Bequia that day with 24 {{more}} of his schoolmates and teacher Randy Boucher,as part of the outreach programme for their RBTT/RBC Young Leaders project.

A well placed source told SEARCHLIGHT that around 2 p.m., the group was at the Lower Bay beach, when the alarm was raised by two of the students that 15-year-old Akeili could not be found.

Two of the Young Leaders, who swam out in search of him, spotted the teen in the water and sought the assistance of a boat to bring him to land.

According to the source, CPR was performed on Akeili by different people, including three British medical students and a Spanish speaking doctor, after which he was taken to the hospital in Port Elizabeth, where he was officially pronounced dead.

Parents and teachers of the Young Leaders, after learning of the tragedy, rushed to the Kingstown Ferry Terminal to console their grieving sons, as they made their way off the ferry when it arrived at Kingstown at 5:30 p.m.

Students ran to the comfort of their parents’ arms, some weeping inconsolably, as the day’s event replayed in their heads.

The students and their teacher were also met at the wharf by chief education officer Lou-Ann Gilchrist; managing director (Eastern Caribbean) of RBC/RBTT Isaac Solomon; Roman Catholic priest and chair of the Christian Council Monsignor Michael Stewart; counsellors from Marion House and the Ministries of Education and Health; headmaster of the St Vincent Grammar School (SVGS) Curtis King; headmistress of the Girls’ High School Andrea Bowman; and several teachers of the SVGS.

The chief education officer addressed the students, assuring them that counselling support would be provided to them. She encouraged the students to support one another and stick together during this difficult time. Gilchrist also told the boys that despite what the public might say, they should never believe that they were to be blamed for the day’s tragic event.

Headmaster of the school Curtis King broke down as he tried to address the students and had to be comforted by his wife and the school’s counsellor Heather McCalmon.

The school’s counsellor advised the teenagers that what they were feeling then was normal and they should allow themselves to go through the grieving process, remembering that it will not last forever.

Monsignor Stewart also greeted the students and parents and led the gathering in prayer. He advised students and teachers to look to God during their time of grief. The priest also prayed with the disconsolate teacher Randy Boucher, who is the co-ordinator of the school’s Young Leader’s programme.

Minister of Education St Clair Prince on Monday, during a visit to the school, told SEARCHLIGHT that he, the Government and the rest of the ministry are extremely saddened by the Latham’s passing.

“It is a tragedy and our thoughts and our prayers are with the family, with the school and with his friends.”

Prince promised that the ministry would do everything they could to ensure that the grief which the students are feeling at the moment is lessened.

“We have deployed counsellors, the principals association, everybody else in the ministry; they are converging at the Grammar School, trying to talk with the children to make sure they understand what happened and that they are not too put out as a result of the tragedy,” he said.

The Minister also noted that he would be speaking to parents shortly and the ministry would be doing everything in its power make the situation as ‘bearable as possible’.

Akeili, a student of Form Four Science, aspired to be a paediatrician and a part-time pastor. He was president of the school’s chapter of the Inter School’s Christian Fellowship, an executive member of the Heritage Club and an executive member of the Young Leader’s group. He was the fourth and youngest child of his mother Annis Latham, the deputy principal of the Adelphi Secondary School.

Last Thursday, 23-year-old Belair resident Mariah George drowned at the Rawacou beach, while on March 21, 13-year-old Kimron Lowman, a student of the Dr JP Eustace Memorial Secondary School, drowned at the Villa beach. (CM)

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