Son’s death was pre­ventable, par­ents say

Bay Roberts coun­cil urged to make cliff area safer by post­ing signs, erect­ing a fence

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

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.

Com­mu­nity sad­dened

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.

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