On a day when his church was flooded, Owen Taylor, a member of the Palmetto Gardens Seventh-day Adventist Church who is also a local taxi driver from the Palmetto Gardens Community, took swift actions to swim across flood waters to rescue Mr. Henry Blair and his adult son who were trapped in their home next door to the Church.
Owen and Junior George Wilson were forced to carry out this rescue operation, when just after lunch on Sabbath April 22, 2017, the Palmetto Gardens Church along with neighboring homes were engulfed with flood waters almost without warning.
Elder Maynardo Fogah of the Palmetto Gardens Church, said it rained all morning and they saw the water rising, but were not alarmed because in the past, the water would simply go away after a time.
However, he said, someone drew his attention to the fact that water was now coming inside the church. Elder Fogah said that “within 5 minutes the entire church was filled with water up to his waist.”
All 20 plus members of the church, who were fellowshipping after lunch, had to take refuge in neighboring houses. Those who parked vehicles at the front of the church had no time to remove them. All 6 vehicles were submerged in water.
After taking steps to secure himself, Owen said he was told by a tenant of the house next door to the Church that the owner of the house Mr. Henry Blair and his son were trapped inside.
Owen said he took the key from the tenant, pinned it to himself and decided to swim across the 7-foot high flood waters to open the grill of the house, went inside and found Mr. Blair and his son taking refuge inside the attic of the house.
He said he had to “tear down” the ceiling to get them out of the house. He gave them life jackets and use a rope to pull and guide them out of the water.
Owen Thomas, who is a taxi driver also said that his car was one of the 6 that were covered with water at the Church.
Mr. Thomas and Wilson can be seen in a video that is being circulated on WhatsApp swimming across to Mr. Henry’s house to carry out the rescue.
Community members reported that this was not the first time they were experiencing flood, but it was the first time in over 20 years that they have ever seen it like this.
Central Jamaica Conference leaders respond to crisis
Since learning of the situation in Palmetto Gardens, the Administrators of the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists took steps to assess and offer support to the church and community members.
On Sunday, April 23, 2017, a team of Administrators (including the President, Levi Johnson and Executive Secretary Kevin Danvers), Community Services Director Everett Smith, Communication Directors Damian Chambers and Charles Bulgin and Parish Coordinator for Clarendon Valbert Walker visited the area to assess the damage that was done to the church and neighboring houses.
During their visits, the team from the Conference talked and prayed with the residents who were most severely affected by the flood.
President of CJC, Pastor Levi Johnson (while addressing the gathering), said, “We empathize with you. We want the house of God to get back to normal as soon as possible.” “The Conference will take on the expenses of cleaning up the church and the 5 most affected neighboring homes”, said Johnson.
In addition, through the Community Services Department and the PDAC (Parish Development Action Committee), Pastor Johnson also took the decision to order 30 mattresses and 2 bases to be distributed to persons within the surrounding community whose houses were flooded.
Persons from other areas in Clarendon, such as Denbigh, who were flooded out will also receive beds.
Video report on the flooding in Palmetto Gardens. Credits: Charles Bulgin and Andrew Johnson
According to Pastor Johnson, “we just want to address the immediate need of getting persons to at least sleep comfortably for the night.”
The Conference administration is still assessing the damages and offering support to the church and community members in Palmetto Gardens.