Son’s death was preventable, parents say
Bay Roberts council urged to make cliff area safer by posting signs, erecting a fence
The parents of an 11-year-old boy who lost his life in a fall over a high cliff in Bay Roberts this summer believe the tragic accident could have been prevented.
Christopher Randolph Davis was killed when he fell over a 30-metre cliff on Aug. 2, in an area of Bay Roberts East known as Jones Head.
Originally from St. Mary’s Bay, the Davis Family now lives in Cambridge, Ontario. They were visiting relatives in Bay Roberts when the tragedy occurred.
The boy’s parents, Kathryn Bennett and Randy Davis, wrote the Bay Roberts town council on Sept. 7 seeking action to have the area made safer.
In their letter tabled at the Sept. 20 regular council meeting, the parents stated: “...since this tragedy we have been haunted by an inescapable fact: Christopher’s death could have been prevented by a simple fence and a few well-placed warning signs. As visitors to your town we did not know of the existence of this cliff. There were no signs. Despite the fact that children lived right next to this property, there were no fences.”
To remedy these “ hazardous conditions” the parents asked council to “take immediate steps to have a fence erected at the property; to have warning signs erected at prominent locations near the property and to take such other remedial steps as may be necessary to ensure this
tragedy is never repeated.”
Crown land a problem
Pointing out that the land in the area is “Crown land, not town land, and there is some private land involved,” acting mayor Philip Wood, who chaired the meeting, said that becomes “problematic” for the town.
“ Whether it’s Crown land or not,” Coun. Melvin Walsh said, “something should be done.”
Walsh acknowledged local residents know about the dangers in the area, but non-residents are not necessarily aware of them.
As native Newfoundlanders, the parents wrote: “we understand all too well the beautiful but dangerous geography of the province. We know that we cannot childproof Newfoundland.
“However, when an extremely hazardous condition exists in a residential area where children play, and when a child dies, we have a duty to act. We owe that duty to Christopher. You owe that duty to the children of Bay Roberts and their families,” the letter stated.
Wood is quite familiar with the dangers in the area. He told The Compass afterwards his grandmother lost her life there back in 1928. The car in which she was a passenger went over a cliff in that same general area.
In his response to the Davis’ request, Wood said in a letter dated Sept. 21: “ The entire community was saddened by the news of the very tragic accident. Council could not agree with you more when you say that we cannot completely childproof our province.
“Education and public awareness programs on the dangers that surround us must be continually employed so that accidents can be prevented. With this in mind, the town has erected a variety of warning signs and caution signs on its own property and on trails, which are being promoted by the town. Council, through its tourism department and in response to your correspondence, will also undertake a further review of its currant signage and awareness programs.”
However, while council understands and appreciates the family’s suggestions for remediation, Wood went on to say, “it is unfortunate that jurisdiction over property that is privately owned or controlled by the Crown is problematic for the town. This is the case for the site at which Christopher tragically had his accident.”
He assured the Davis family “the town will continue to emphasize the need for caution and due diligence so as both residents and visitors alike are aware of the dangers that surround us.”
Meanwhile, the Davis family said the people of Bay Roberts and Conception Bay region aided and comforted them in their time of need and honoured the memory of their son with their condolences and prayers.
“ We would like to repay this kindness by working with you (town council) to ensure the hazardous conditions which caused Christopher’s death are remedied, so that no other family will experience the loss we have suffered.”
Christopher Davis was killed when he fell over a 30-metre sheer cliff in Bay Roberts on Aug. 2. He was 11 years old.