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Minister of National Security, Senator the Hon. Dwight Nelson, has conveyed his expressions of sorrow and grief at the tragedy at the Armadale Juvenile Centre in Alexandria, St. Ann, which claimed the lives of five wards of the state and left thirteen others nursing injuries.
The Minister, who along with Police Commissioner, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, and the Ministry’s Chief Technical Director rushed to the Juvenile Centre in the aftermath of the fire last night, and returned there this morning with Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, and the Police Commissioner, says the tragedy has left the entire nation numb with shock.
He says such an incident which has snatched the lives of promising, young persons, some of whom were trying with the help of the state to put the pieces of their broken lives together, is unfortunate beyond description.
Senator Nelson notes that many of the young women who found themselves in the care of the state are tragic victims of broken homes and are in desperate need of a family unit.
The Minister says he was acutely aware of the severe trauma being experienced by survivors and other wards at the Armadale Juvenile Centre.
Minister Nelson noted that counselling is also being provided for the girls by psychologists, psychiatrist, chaplains and probation officers from the Department of Correctional Services. Counselling is also being provided for the families of the girls. The Government will also assist with the funerals of the girls.
The National Security Minister says he is in full support of the instructions issued by the Prime Minister to temporarily relocate the remaining 45 wards to the Stony Hill Heart Academy.
Minister Nelson says following discussions with the Ministry of Education, the wards will be moved to the Tranquillity Bay facility in St. Elizabeth.
The Minister also welcomed the decision to initiate a Commission of Enquiry with sole commissioner former President of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Justice Paul Harrison.
In extending condolences and sympathy to the families and loved ones of the victims, Senator Nelson says his Ministry, which has overall responsibility for juvenile correctional facilities, stands ready to assist in any way that is deemed necessary.
Ann-Marie Samuels, Nerrissa Gooden and Rachel King all aged 17, and Kaychell Nelson and Shauna-Lee Kerr both 15, died in the fire. Of the thirteen who were injured and taken to the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, three were transferred to the Kingston Public Hospital.
Police reports are that shortly after eight on Friday evening, the police were summoned to quell the rowdy behaviour of some of the girls at the institution.
Stones and other missiles were hurled at the investigators who visited the facility.
During mediation, the police discovered that a section of the building, which housed 23 girls, was on fire. The fire quickly spread engulfing the entire building trapping the girls inside.
The police rescued some of the girls through a rear window.
However, after the cooling down operation by the fire brigade which was summoned, the bodies of five of the girls were found among the rubble.