September 27, 2021

Bravery citations for Cayman Islands swimming tragedy

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Two recipients were awarded bravery citations at National Heroes Day 2018 celebrations for their heroism during a swimming tragedy in North Side last year.

Conservation officer Alan Mackay and Hope Academy student Beha Hansson, aged 16, were presented with their honours at the event today (Monday, 22 January 2018).

The pair tried to save Mongkol Srilamai from drowning off Rum Point Drive on Ash Wednesday. They were unable to rescue Mr. Srilamai’s life, but successfully helped Sadawut “Woody” Sriling, who also struggled to swim ashore during the incident.

“I’m very proud to receive this award but I only did what anyone else would have done,” said Beha.
Mr. Srilamai, aged 44, who was a chef at Thai Orchid on West Bay Road, was amongst a group of staff from the restaurant attending a lunch hosted by Mr. Hansson’s parents on the 1 March holiday at their beach-side home.

At the time aged 15, Beha and his younger brother, aged 8, had swum to the coral reef with Mr. Srilamai and Mr. Sriling, who also worked at Thai Orchid.

Unfortunately, the tide turned and the swimmers got into difficulty on the deep-water side of the reef after being dragged by the current through an unmarked channel. Beha was able to assist his brother to safer waters, prior to helping the floundering Mr. Srilamai into the lagoon-side of the reef.

In the meantime, Mr. Mackay, who works for the Department of Environment and was on routine patrol in North Side, received a call for help when the group in distress was spotted from shore.

Before the emergency services could arrive, Mr. Mackay entered the water fully clothed and swam in extremely challenging conditions to the reef.

He was able to help Beha pull Mr. Srilamai to shore and administer CPR, before turning back to help the exhausted Mr. Sriling.

Despite valiant attempts by both Mr. Mackay and paramedics, they were unable to resuscitate Mr. Srilamai.

“I am pleased to receive the bravery award not just for me, but on behalf of all our DoE officers,” said Mr. Mackay. “We are a small unit and not very high profile compared to other frontline services.”

Since the incident last year, the Hansson family has erected a warning sign on the beach, and installed a buoy at the channel on the reef, in the hope of saving other lives.

Alan Mackay and Beha Hansson receive their bravery awards at National Heroes Day Celebrations 2018.

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