By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEARLY two years ago Rose Lubin travelled to Abaco to visit her family on a two-week trip but was never heard from again after Hurricane Dorian destroyed the community where she was believed to have stayed, a Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.
Dr Patrizzia M Gozito, a psychologist living in Malta, Europe, broke down in tears while testifying before Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez about the missing status of her 26-year-old sister.
Dr Gozito was the final witness who gave testimony during the first part of the inquest into the presumed deaths of people reported missing after Hurricane Dorian.
Speaking via WhatsApp yesterday, Dr Gozito recalled her and her sister’s final conversation on August 31, just a day before the storm hit.
She told the court her sister, who was living in Florida at the time, was only visiting Abaco on a two-week trip to her family.
“She was staying with her mother... in a place I believe they called The Mud,” Dr Gozito told the court. “She told me she was there and she was safe and she had been through hurricanes before and didn’t think it was going to be that bad.”
Dr Gozito said her sister promised to call the next day, but never did.
After not hearing from her, Dr Gozito said she contacted her sister’s employer in Florida but was told no one had heard from Ms Lubin as she was not as yet due back to work.
The European resident said she later listed her sister as missing on a local Bahamian website and also contacted several government agencies.
“I called Bahamas Social Services but they didn’t have her listed in the shelters. After that, I contacted NEMA and after that, I contacted Inspector Knowles at the police station and made a missing person’s report. . .I also spoke to the Bahamas Consulate in Miami,” she added
To this day, no one has reached out to her concerning the whereabouts of her sister.
Having never travelled to Abaco before, Dr Gozito said she had no idea what kind of situation her sister experienced during the storm.
Asked what she thinks may have happened to her sister, Dr Gozito replied she believed she was swept away and ultimately killed by Dorian.
Also asked if she ever submitted DNA,Dr Gozito said while she was informed by police that they wanted her or other close relatives to travel to the Bahamas to give DNA, she was not able to do so because the police never further contacted her on the matter.
In response, Coroner Weech-Gomez asked her if she was able to travel to Florida to assist with the DNA testing process as her current location would have presented a logistical challenge.
However, Dr Gozito replied that she didn’t think so because of the COVID-19 pandemic and current travel restrictions.
Coroner Weech-Gomez told Dr Gozito that although she might not be able to travel right now, she could still do so in the future as police efforts to locate missing loved ones will be continuing.
Liann Key-Kaighin also gave testimony via a Whatsapp call yesterday regarding her missing aunt, Astrid Stratton, 78.
Ms Key-Kaighin recalled how her aunt refused to leave her Marsh Harbour home before the massive storm hit.
“I pleaded with her to leave and to come with me to my mother’s residence, but she told me ‘I was born in this house, and I will die in this house’… those were her exact words,” the woman told the court.
Because of her aunt’s refusal, Ms Key-Kaighin said she asked friends – Constance Schneider, Emile Raphael, Nildiese Vincent – to stay with her during the storm’s passage.
However, Ms Key-Kaighin said since Dorian, no one has heard from the group.
Asked what she believed happened to them, the Abaco resident said she believed they drowned.
Though DNA swabs were taken from Ms Key-Kaighin’s mother last year, no match was found.
Dorian hit Abaco on September 1, 2019, as a Category Five storm. The storm’s official death toll is 74.
The Coroner’s Court’s list of missing people includes about 35 people. However, the court has only heard from relatives of some 17 victims reported as missing.
Coroner Weech-Gomez is expected to make a formal decision next week as it relates to those 17 people reported missing by family members.
Once that decision is made and the proper paperwork has been completed, loved ones will be able to obtain a death certificate at the registrar general’s department.