St. John’s Antigua- Seasoned diver Paul Roos has cast doubt on the findings of an inquest that concluded British tourist Nicola Raybone was trapped in quicksand, resulting in her drowning at Jolly Beach in January.
According to reports in the British press, the inquest determined that while Raybone was trapped in sinking sand a tide came in an enveloped her.
However, Roos, an ardent swimmer and diver said, for the past 30 years he has been working in the area where the incident occurred and there has never been any report of such an occurrence in Antigua waters.
While he said the death was unfortunate, Roos told OBSERVER Media, “I’ve had a dive centre at Jolly Beach for 30 years and I used to back my boat up along Jolly Beach and I have never in my life, encountered quick sand out there. That is not to say it is doesn’t exist, but I have been out and about all over those bays and never ever have come across any quick sand.”
The Netherlands born, American and Antiguan citizen said he has moored in the area multiple times without difficulty.
“I used to drop my anchor out there for my dive boat and back up to the beach and load my guests every day for years and never ran into anything but real hard sand,” he said.
Roos added, “I would say the likelihood it was quick sand has got to be less than five percent. I’ve never heard of it. It is a great beach for older folks and younger kids because it has no heavy undertones and it is a gentle sloping beach with hard sand,” Roos said.
Official police reports on the incident earlier this year indicate the 33-year-old mother of two of Lincolnshire, England, arrived in Antigua for her father’s wedding on January 19 and four hours later she drowned.
The Strategic Communications Department had issued the following press statement: “It was reported that at about 7 pm, Ms Raybone was seen at a location at the hotel with (relatives) who left her at about 7 pm. Upon their return, the (relatives) discovered Ms Raybone missing. A search was carried out for her and she was not found. Police were called and, at about 8 pm, the body of Ms Raybone was found by the police on the shoreline at the Jolly Beach Resort.”
Weeks later, the police issued another press statement indicating local pathologist Dr Lester Simon found the cause of death to be drowning.
According to the police, the dead woman’s relatives had suspected something was amiss when they found her cellular phone and sandals at the bar where she had been drinking with them earlier.
In British press reports, including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Mirror, the deceased reportedly went for a walk to watch the sunset after having drinks with friends some time after 6 pm.
Several British news outlets state that Raybone’s cries for help were unheard, while several other UK news agencies gave a contrasting report that cries for help were heard but the deceased could not be found because it was dark.
Quoting the coroner, the Telegraph wrote, “Her family went to look for her but it was going dark. It was easy to sink deep into the sand. The beach sloped and it became pitch black. The tide that night was very rough and high. A body was found later on the shoreline and an investigation carried out.”
Weather reports for Antigua on January 19, 2012 indicate sunset was at 5:55pm and the tide was 0.03 metres that day.
Meantime, Environmentalist Eli Fuller was very critical of the media reports as he too cast doubt on the findings.
Addressing the reports he wrote on antiguaforum.com, “…The UK seems to feed their readers nonsense more and more these days and the days of people asking questions seem to be coming to an end. You mean to tell me that nobody in the UK press thought it was strange that this lady got off a plane, went to the bar, left her phone on the bar with other personal effects, got stuck in quick sand, and the tide came up over her head killing her?????? PLEASE!!”
He also wrote, “Quicksand in Antigua at one of the busiest beaches we have? Nobody ever noticed it before or since? Also, tide???? What tide? Antigua’s high tide is about 16 inches from its low tide. It’s no wonder people are scared to travel these days with crazy stuff like this. I’m very sorry that she died, but I am also very, very disappointed with this type of journalism.”
In the meantime, Jolly Beach hotel called the death a tragic one but also agreed that quick sand was unheard of at its beach.
Managers issued a statement which read, “Despite this tragic accident, the public beach our resort shares with other hotels is one of the safest in Antigua, and no report of quicksand has ever been recorded.”