Story and photos by Gemma Handy
Three houses destroyed. Several people left homeless. One excruciating wait for answers.
The devastation wreaked by Monday morning’s blaze that razed a trio of Nut Grove properties to the ground was so severe that the badly charred remains of a human body were apparently initially mistaken for an animal.
One of the traumatised residents – who later filed a missing person’s report for his teenage son – must now await the results of a DNA swab to confirm if the body is that of his child.
Yesterday, the smell of smoke still hung in the air of this quiet neighbourhood more than 48 hours after the inferno broke out.
Onlookers gathered to watch and lend support to worried father Michael Cummins as medics removed the body from the rubble, a crude conglomeration of galvanised steel and breezeblocks, scattered with the scorched debris of three families’ worldly possessions.
Confusion ensued in the aftermath of the blaze when Cummins was told someone had seen his 16-year-old son Dequan flee the house the pair shared as the flames roared.
“I was told me son ran and now I cyarn find he,” he told Observer.
A body found at the scene turned out to be “the same body the firemen tell me was a dog”, Cummins explained.
The 44-year-old cockle seller and landscaper said he had spent the last two days scouring the area for Dequan.
“Me son nah like that; two hours cyarn pass and he don’t see me.
“When I come back this morning, they say it look like a [human] body so now I have to tek a swab in ma mouth so can see if it ma son. They didn’t do their job good,” he continued.
Cummins wasn’t home when the fire – which he thinks was due to a faulty electrical wire – started. He was alerted to the disaster shortly after 3am on Monday by his sister who lived in one of the adjacent destroyed homes. Cummins’ brother-in-law occupied the third.
“Me cry morning, noon and night,” Cummins said, visibly emotional. “Me tryin’ to keep me tears to meself; sometimes me get nervous and me break down.
“I raise him from baby. His mommy gone to Guyana 14 years ago.”
Cummins described the Jennings Secondary School student as one who loves plants, along with playing football and basketball.
“He fun, nice. Anybody who have problem with he, have problem with themselves,” he said.
In addition to the agonising wait for the results of the DNA test – which insiders say could take several weeks as the swab must be sent to Barbados for analysis – Cummins is now living in a nearby yard having lost everything he owns.
“Me nah even have me toothbrush … but me nah worry about that, that just vanity. Life is important,” the father-of-four added.
Also at the scene yesterday desperate for news was Dequan’s friend of many years, Kene Gregoire.
“We used to go beach every day. My house would have been first place he come but he nah come for so many days,” the 17-year-old said.
“So this morning I go down dey and they tell me the body look like a human. Me start cry; me wahn believe it’s nah he,” Gregoire added.
Police confirmed a body had been discovered among rubble at 8.43am Wednesday and that they are carrying out further investigations.
Fire Chief Elvis Weaver told Observer his officers had been confident they had thoroughly checked the area and were “shocked” to later discover there was a body among the debris.