Tue | Sep 29, 2020

Boat hero cops relive high-seas mission

Published:Friday | August 7, 2020 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
District Constable Basil Fuller
District Constable Sean Pierre.
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The bravery of district constables Basil Fuller and Sean Pierre, who fought raging seas in stormy weather and risked their lives while travelling to Honduras and back, is being recognised almost four years later.

The two are to be conferred with the Badge of Honour for Gallantry on Heroes Day, October 19.

In their capacity as coxswains, or steerers of the vessel, the six-member crew left Jamaica’s shores in December 2016 to retrieve a police boat that had been stolen from a dock in Negril, Westmoreland, 10 months earlier.

It was found in Honduras without engines.

The vessel was one of 10 boats that the United States government gave to Jamaica’s marine police in 2015 to boost their crime-fighting capacity and track down drug and gun smugglers operating between Jamaica and Haiti.

“I’m elated, happy. I really can’t find words to express,” Fuller told The Gleaner before he recounted the events.

Pierre said that he never imagined that he would one day step on to the platform at King’s House to receive an award.

“It makes me quite proud, and my son will have something to look up to,” he said.

“We had to endure, for many hours, continuous battering and beating. So the moment that we saw land, knowing that we were just a few hours away from home, it was a joy,” Pierre recalled of the mission that began at 6:30 p.m.

“We passed through two cold storms, thus causing me to become so sick. I had no warm-weather gear, and my colleague had to lend me a sea coat in order to keep me warm,” Fuller said.

When they got to the pick-up point, US consular authorities were not there, so they had to sail another 40 miles.

“We eventually retrieved the vessel, and in the night at about 22:00, we lost the vessel again. The mooring line got loose, causing the vessel to break away, so we had to turn back and use the strobe light to find the vessel,” Fuller recalled.

Their theory was that the reflecting tape on the side of the lost vessel would light up once the blue strobe lights shone in its direction. That search lasted for 90 minutes.

On their way back, the vessel was extremely low on fuel, sending the team into panic.

Thankfully, they were 46 miles away from Negril Point and were assisted by a rescue team.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com