By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
IN remembrance of the deadly boat explosion in Exuma in June, members of the Exuma Christian Council recently hosted a service of prayer and thanksgiving at the St Margaret's Baptist Church.
Families, friends, religious and community leaders, second home owners, visitors, excursion and boat tour operators came together in humility, love and prayer.
Shortly after 9am on June 30, a chartered Four C's Adventures tour boat was travelling in waters just off Barraterre with 10 tourists and two Bahamians on board, when an engine exploded causing the boat to catch fire. Ten people on board were injured and transported to the mini hospital in George Town. One American woman succumbed to her injuries; her husband lost a leg. Several others were airlifted for further medical treatment, among them a 22-year old woman from Vermont with a love for dancing, who lost both of her legs after the accident.
Exuma native and Ebenezer Union Baptist public relations administrator Vanessa Smith told Tribune Religion that the island's senior administrator, Preston Cunningham, commended members of the Christian Council for bringing locals together for prayer, as prayer is known to bring about hope and lift the spirits of the broken-hearted.
"He commented that he knows the families of the deceased and injured, but he is assured that God will take care of everything," said Ms Smith.
Highlights of the service also included an appearance by Member of Parliament for Exuma and the Exuma Cays Chester Cooper, who was present to show support for the affected families as well as the entire boat tour and tourism industry.
"He said that we as Exumians know how to stick together through the good and bad. The Ministry of Tourism, the police force, religious and community leaders came together from the day of the incident, which was commendable. It was indeed heart-breaking to know there was tragedy and we continue to pray for the families. In this tragedy we pause to learn, improve and use this as a teachable moment to better ourselves. People come from near and far to enjoy our swimming pigs and this is why we must protect our environment and the marine life. We must continue to bind together. We must embrace the changes and thank God for the intricacies of His plans even when we do not understand," said Ms Smith.
Rev Franklyn McKenzie, president of the Exuma Christian Council, gave an inspirational speech to all in attendance. Ms Smith said Rev McKenzie spoke about the courage, determination and faith of Job despite his loss, trials and great misfortune.
"Job remained true and kept a steadfast hope in God. Rev McKenzie alluded to his personal medical experience during which he had a surgery, and because of a medical oversight, he had to be operated on again, but he did not lose hope. He said that Exuma is the 'capital of the swimming pigs' throughout the Bahamas and we must protect our visitors, our environment and our industry," said Ms Smith.
Also at the service was Father Ethan Ferguson of St Andrew's Anglican Church, who prayed for the family who lost their loved one, for those who suffered injuries and those who were traumatised by the devastating incident. Pastor Ritchie Newchurch of the Church of God prayed for the Four C's Adventures' owner Clayton Patterson Smith, as well as his company's management, staff and operators.
Rev Garth Rolle, first assistant superintendent of the Bahamas Baptist Union, prayed for the owners, managers and operators in the excursion and water tours industry on the island of Exuma.