Investigations and subsequent discoveries have led police to lower the official missing persons count in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on Grand Bahama from 30 to 22, according to head of the island’s Central Detective Unit Brian Rolle in an interview with Perspective.
We have stayed in regular contact with Rolle as we continue to follow developments in search and recovery efforts for storm victims from Freeport, High Rock and East End who remain missing and are feared dead.
Rolle’s latest update followed from a recent question we put to him on why police had only issued 23 missing persons flyers for Grand Bahama though the official count remained at 30.
He advised that investigators expect the new count of 22 to be reduced further pending DNA test results on the remains of a little boy and an adult female who for now cannot be positively identified due to their advanced state of decomposition.
“There were two persons listed as missing who we found to be alive,” Rolle explained. “There were two who go by different names and were reported missing by different family members, and four of the persons were reported missing to NEMA and they were in [The Rand] hospital in the morgue.”
He continued, “One who we had listed as missing who we found alive is a local resident and we were able to get to him because of his sister who hadn’t spoken to him in several months and so she assumed that he was missing.”
By discovering what church the man attended, investigators were ultimately able to locate him.
Rolle disclosed that a member of the Pinder family in High Rock and the Thomas family of McLean’s Town were found to have been reported missing more than once by different family members.
On November 10, family members of those missing from the High Rock settlement participated in a candlelight vigil and wreath-laying ceremony in honor of their loved ones.
Last week, the closest next of kin of missing storm victims submitted samples at police headquarters in Freeport for the creation of a DNA database, Rolle revealed.
“We were able to have a physician collect blood samples and so the two who we still have in hospital at the morgue we are now hoping to properly identity them,” he said.
The search continues
It has been over a month since a total count of those missing post-Dorian has been provided by authorities.
At last report the number of missing stood at 282, according to National Security Minister Marvin Dames; 252 of those being from Abaco.
While all the names of those missing on Grand Bahama have been released to the public, only 12 names have been released for Abaco and outside of the inadvertent discovery of human remains by clean-up teams, no recent information has been provided on search and recovery efforts in Abaco’s disaster areas.
As we drove across Freeport’s Casuarina Bridge en route to the island’s eastern settlements over the weekend, it was not lost on us that under the mounds of debris fields along 40-plus miles of highway could potentially be the remains of some of those who police search teams have been working to locate.
It is a sobering thought as one remembers that what is now a passable roadway was under over 20 feet of raging storm surge that claimed lives and destroyed homes and businesses.
It is hardly possible to avoid thinking about what those who fell victim to the fury of Dorian’s flood waters went through in those fateful moments.
After having taken a brief hiatus, police will continue search and recovery efforts on the island this week.
Of the ongoing task, Rolle said, “After we sat and we talked and we realized that there were so many persons missing from High Rock and the storm was moving west, so we figured that just as persons would have drifted into Rocky Creek from McLean’s Town, persons from High Rock would have moved further west and so we are concentrating on those areas.”
He confirmed in response to our questions that police teams are using drones in their search efforts, and that they are gridding out their target areas so as to work methodically.
“It is going to call for us putting a lot of time and manpower out in that area because it is vast out there,” Rolle pointed out.
Search and recovery, he reminded, is a grim task.
“It is really gruesome for our officers to have to use pickaxes and dig people out from debris beds; it is a horrible, horrible thing,” Rolle stressed.
“I told my officers that I am going to get them treatment to make sure they are not suffering from PTSD.”