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St Lucia: Choiseul man nearly lost his life trying to save coworkers

By Merrick Andrews From St Lucia News Online

Kelan Jn Baptiste is not only the lone survivor of last Sunday’s double drowning off Smuggler’s Cove, but an unsung hero in the eyes of witnesses, who saw him risk his life to save two of his coworkers in distress.

The 24-year-old Choiseul native, who temporarily lives in Morne Du Don, Castries, told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in an exclusive interview on Tuesday how an afternoon of merriment turned into tragedy – a situation that propelled him at death’s door.

Jn Baptiste told SNO that on Sunday, Jan. 15, around 2 p.m., he was among six people – four males and two females – who started a BBQ on the Ans Bucane Beach.

The men, all labourers for a Royalton Resorts contractor, had just completed their day’s work when they joined up with two females to roast breadfruit and barbeque pork and chicken. A bottle of Campari and two bottles of wine completed the setting.

Kieron ‘Skyro’ Cornibert and Curtis ‘Curtie’ Prospere, both of Cul De Sac, Castries, decided to go fishing on a kayak. According to Jn Baptiste, the men went on the sea just for the fun it, and was planning to bring home some of the fish.

“They took the kayak to go on the stones so they could throw the (fishing) line,” Jn Baptiste said.

Tragedy struck not too long after.

“So after an hour I called them to come in and… when I looked back I saw them in the water,” Jn Baptiste said.

“The kayak overturned with them…. They were fighting to put it back up but they couldn’t. After a couple minutes they started calling.”

Jn Baptiste jumped into action as soon as he saw the men in distress, but Cornibert quickly disappeared into the waters.

“When I went to the rescue… one went down and never came back up,” he said.

Jn Baptiste then focused his attention on the struggling Prospere. “I got close to him but couldn’t hold him because the sea was rough.”

Moments later, Jn Baptiste also got into trouble with the strong currents and crashing waves.

“A wave took me and knocked me into the stones,” he said.

And that was the last thing he remembered before he regained consciousness while being transported to Victoria Hospital.

“When I catch myself I was in the ambulance going to hospital,” he said.

Jn Baptiste said he is still wondering how he did not drown.

“I don’t know how I managed to come back up…. I started drinking water to go down, and I got myself up, and a wave just took me and send me on the stone,” he explained.

But how did he get out of the water?

Jn Baptiste said he was told that a “Spanish fella on a building” rescued him. He said his rescuer, who he has not seen, was not among the persons at the BBQ.

Emergency and police officials told SNO that they received the call at 3:16 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15 that three persons drowned, one body was recovered and being transported to hospital via ambulance.

However, minutes later it was discovered that the “one body” recovered was actually the unconscious Jn. Baptiste who some people thought was dead.

The Police Marine Unit launched a search and divers discovered Prospere’s body around 6 p.m.

Cornibert’s body was discovered this morning (Jan. 17), floating near Sandals Grande, sources say.

Jn Baptiste, who sustained bruises to his back and legs, returned to work today and witnessed Cornibert’s body being removed from the waters.

He only came to know the men on the job, which he obtained about nine months ago.

He said beach barbeques were usual after-work lime by labours.

Jn Baptiste pointed out that Prospere and Cornibert had “no time to eat and drink because they went on the kayak”. He also noted that the waves were not rough when the men left on the kayak, but the sea conditions deteriorated when they tried to return to the beach.

Many people are wondering what caused the kayak to capsize. Jn Baptiste said the ill-fated kayak was one of two on the beach normally used by workers.

A source had told SNO that the kayak may have had hole/s and was submerging when it overturned – a speculation Jn Baptiste is also aware of, but cannot confirm.

Regardless, Jn Baptiste said two “good people” were lost that day, and the images of the men drowning and the personal near-death experience keeps him up at night.

“I am very, very sad. I can hardly work, do anything. I have not slept at all,” he said.

But thankfully, Jn Baptiste has survived to become a father for the first time.

His girlfriend is scheduled to give birth to a baby boy next month.

A close relative of Jn. Baptiste said it is regrettable that lives were lost but everyone appears to have forgotten about the survivor.

“I just wanna say that everyone is sympathetic and sad as a result of the two drowning victims but what about the other male who almost lost his life and was hospitalised as a result of his attempt to save the two drowning victims? Has anyone cared to at least find out who he is or anything of that sort? Just a thought.”


Keiron Cornibert (left) and Curtis ‘Curtie’ Prospere.

Jn Baptiste is expecting to be a father for the first time next month.

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