‘The hole was so deep, very deep and very dark’

JUST over two weeks after they successfully rescued 66-year-old George Smart from a 55-foot pit on Jones Avenue in St Catherine, where he had been dumped by thugs, firefighters at the Spanish Town fire station are continuing to reflect with pride on a job well done.

“We were satisfied with ourselves. Looking at the resources we had at the time, we are well satisfied,” said Sergeant Kareem Hamilton, a female member of the team which carried out the rescue.

“I am used to this. I went on retrieval at the JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company) plant in Old Harbour so this was not really strange,” said Hamilton in reference to a September 2005 incident which left three men dead and their bodies in a hole at the power plant.

“But this time we were trying to retrieve a live person and the hole was so deep, very deep and very dark,” added Hamilton.

The drama started for the team shortly after 7:00 am on Saturday, May 2, when the fire station was called by police control and told of a a man trapped in a pit.

A seven-member team was dispatched to the Jones Avenue location and after a quick assessment, started devising a plan to rescue the trapped taxi driver.

“The nature of our job didn’t change when we found out that it was not a fire or a traffic crash. The nature of our job is to secure life and property so although it was not a fire or anything of that nature we still had to carry out our duty,” firefighter Dwayne Rankin told the Jamaica Observer.

Following an assessment it was decided that Dennis “Babyface” Taylor would be the one to go into the pit to carry out the rescue.

“It was a collective decision for me to be the one to enter the pit based on my size, fitness, and experience,” said Taylor who has been a firefighter for the past nine years.

“Naturally you are going to have a bit of fear but once I learnt that the gentleman was down there for so long [four nights], then it was easy for me to decide that if he can survive down there then I should be able to help him out,” added Taylor.

He noted that the ladder on the fire truck was not long enough to get to the bottom of the pit so it was decided that a rope would be used.

“We came up with the idea of using a rope, securing it around the ladder and using the ladder as a platform. I then made a tie around myself to go down inside the pit. It was set like a pulley system so that while the persons were up top monitoring the thing, I was going down to help him,” said Taylor.

He noted that Smart – who had been shot at, stoned and had burning debris dumped on him during his ordeal in the pit – was apprehensive at first when his rescuers arrived.

“But when I went down there and assured him that we were the firefighters, the first thing he said was ‘God answers prayers,’ ” noted Taylor.

“I was surprised because he had a lot of strength and he made it easy for me to secure him. He helped me to hold up his weight and then I secured the necessary knots around him. I remained in the pit while they pulled him up,” said Taylor whose training allowed him to administer basic first aid, if needed.

Taylor used a super-bright, LED 12,000-lumen flashlight to see while in the pit as the regular flashlight used by Jamaica’s firefighters was of little help in the pitch-black darkness.

With the three-hour rescue mission complete, Taylor and his team were overwhelmed at what they believe was a “job well done”.

“As Jamaica can see right now, the Jamaica Fire Brigade is an excellent organisation; we don’t just play dominoes. We are trained and ready to do whatever needs to be done,” declared team member Reynaldo Campbell.

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