Life will never be the same for Martine McKay, who watched helplessly on Easter Monday as her 33-year-old boyfriend yelled for help, then disappeared in the waters of Arthur Seat river, not far from the Kellits area of Clarendon.
The late Oliver Newman lived at Croft’s Hill in Clarendon, but was working as a carpenter on a construction site in Trelawny.
The Easter holiday presented a perfect opportunity for him to travel the relatively long distance back home, and to become engrossed in the company of his girlfriend and their four-year-old daughter, Samara.
Newman reached home on Holy Thursday, and the couple started to plan how they would have spent Easter Monday together, before Newman hit the road again for work today, April 24.
The original plan was to visit a beach on the island’s north coast, McKay told The Beacon.
The couple however scrapped that plan due to transportation issues, and instead opted to visit the relatively near Arthur Seat river.
McKay explained that, prior to leaving home on Easter Monday, she washed some clothes her partner had brought from work.
She – along with her parents, sister, daughter and Newman of course – eventually journeyed to the river to cook and unwind.
“We went to the river to enjoy ourselves; we were there looking in the water and all – and making fun,” McKay recalled, adding that she was also busy preparing the planned meal.
She did not see when her partner went into the water, she said. “Nobody knows when he was going to jump off into the water, but we heard when he jumped off,” she added.
“It seemed like he was coming out [of the water], and then we saw like he was going backwards, then it seems like he was trying to stand up, then he went up about three or two times and cry out, and then he went down.”
McKay recalled crying out for help because no one on location has any swimming skill. “We were crying out for help, but didn’t hear anyone,” she said.
Two men who were cutting wood nearby with a power saw eventually showed up, but they were non-swimmers.
Two other young men later appeared, went into the water, and returned with information that Newman was lying apparently dead on the floor of the river, McKay told The Beacon.
As news of the tragedy spread like wildfire, a relatively large number of people gathered on the banks of Arthur Seat river – some perched on tree branches in their jostle for the best vantage point to capture images on phones.
Many persons also wept and expressed shock while a small group of men fought assiduously to recover Newman’s corpse.
The group eventually attached a length of rope to the body, and pulled it from the water.
“Him dead fi real,” one person in the crowd shouted as the muscular corpse – dressed only in dark-blue shorts – lay face down in the sand.
The police, who arrived a few hours after the body was recovered, said their investigation into the ‘suspected drowning’ is ongoing.
McKay, in the meantime, told The Beacon that she was ushered from the river shortly after her boyfriend was pulled from the water.
The scene was too much for her to bear.
She immediately was taken to an area doctor’s home to be examined. She also went to the health centre in Kellits yesterday.
“I am feeling down and still can’t believe what happened. Whenever I lay down, it is like everything is just coming back,” McKay said, adding that a terrible headache prevented her from sleeping Monday night.
“I regret going to the river, but people said I should not blame myself… Everything mess up; even the food I was cooking burn up and all.”
McKay stated that she and Newman started their love affair about five years ago; they were planning many more years together.
“He is not a man of many words; he liked to play games on phone and all that; he is very quiet,” she further disclosed. “He was caring; he loved his daughter very much.”
The daughter, Samara, witnessed the tragedy, but she is too young to fully fathom the gravity of what transpired, her mother told The Beacon.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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