Residents in the slum community of Clara Town on Bushrod Island had a terrifying awakening on Tuesday, when news broke on the alleged drowning of a judicial worker, who is a resident of the community, into an off-shoot of the Mesurado River.
The alleged victim, Mr. Vincent Coleman, who is estimated to be in his early 50s, had according to neighbors, left his apartment roughly at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday to use a zinc shack latrine constructed with planks over the river in Clara Town, about 150 feet away from where he lived.
After his alleged drowning on June 2, Clara Town Community Chair, David Jacob told The NewDawn that officers from the Crime Services Division or CID of the Liberia National Police visited the incident scene and did their assessment before leaving.
But Mr. Jacob said he has ordered that the latrine be immediately demolished because it is not safe, adding, this latest incident is not the first at that latrine.
Another man reportedly died in one of the bathrooms of the same latrines during the Ebola crisis last year; and elsewhere in the community, there are stories of drowning into the river.
A follow-up with the Judiciary to get comment after the incident yesterday failed, despite calls and text messages sent to the head of communication Mr. Sengbe Johnson. Mr. Johnson said he was “trying to check the information” in reply to a text earlier sent him via mobile phone.
During interview on the incident scene yesterday, a prominent resident and teacher around the river view, Mr. Petar Wreh told The NewDawn that he woke up when neighbors were yelling and running towards the river site over on information that someone had fallen while using the latrine.
The victim’s spouse and child were said to be living away from him, and that he had been alone in his room. Mr. Wreh said people stood around the river raising concerns while divers, including the victim’s house mate jumped into the river in an effort to rescue him, but to no avail.
“He’s an employee at the Temple of Justice; he normally passes early in the morning … with his [bucket] to [dump waste] at the river. And after that, he goes to use the bathroom,” Mr. Wreh narrated, saying, this may have been similar case when residents alarmed that he fell into the river.
“But people went into the river to dive, but they could not see any sign of him. We have not seen him come out… the slipper he wore left behind. He wore a blue shower slipper, and the slipper is there. And his next door neighbor ran to the river site and tried and jumped into the river to see how best to find him too, but to no avail,” said Mr. Wreh.
He described the bathroom as “small and tiny,” as he pondered over how could such a huge man easily fall and pass between narrow planks built for the bathroom users to squat over.
There was a heavy downpour on Tuesday, but that could not be compared to the first day in June. The river seemed to be stable from the surface, but residents suggested that it often flows forcefully underneath which may have taken the deceased far to an unknown destination.
At the time Mr. Coleman was said to have fallen into the river, an unidentified little girl, who was allegedly using one of the rooms to the latrine, had alerted from her end that “somebody” fell into the river.
But residents could not give account of her whereabouts when this paper sought to get comment from her.
Though the restroom owner could not be contacted, a lady living in the house to which the bathroom belongs, Madam Mercy Jallah said one man called Vincent “came in the restroom this morning and he fell in the water.”
But Mercy said she did not know what exactly caused Vincent to fall into the river, saying “I heard the sound from the toilet, when I looked there I didn’t see anybody.”
She said it was one little girl that came and informed her that “one man fell into the water”, but helpers from the community could not find him in a search to rescue him from the water.
Another resident, Ezekiel said there was no way to find the man, after a little girl had alarmed that someone had fallen into the river. He said two different divers jumped into the river but failed to see the victim.
“The people said that under (the river) it can be running; but on top you can’t really know whether it is running – the water running,” said Ezekiel. By Winston W. Parley – Edited By Jonathan Browne