NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) held a service on Friday past, in remembrance of the four marines who lost their lives in the line of duty on May 10, 1980.
The HMBS Flamingo ship sunk in waters off the Ragged Island chain when it was attacked by Cuban military MiG fighter jets while heading towards Cay SantoDomingo with Cuban poachers onboard.
The incident happened just under six weeks of the Force’s official establishment, and claimed the life of four marines: Able Seaman Fenrick Sturrup, Marine Seaman Austin Rudolph Smith, Marine Seaman David Allison Tucker and Marine Seaman Edward Arnold Williams.
It was an act that Cuba later apologized for, its government also paying compensation to the families of the victims as well as the RBDF after its vessel sank.
On Friday past, wreaths were laid at the HMBS FLAMINGO Park and Monument, and the water’s edge at Coral Harbour Base by government officials and dignitaries, led by the Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Her Excellency The Most Honorable Dame Marguerite Pindling during the 39th Annual Memorial Service.
Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling reflected on the events of this tragic day, and offered words of encouragement to those who were left behind to mourn their demise.
“Ordinarily, such an incident would have caused a rift between nation’s, but very early, following the incident, it was clear that there was shared determination to maintain good relations,” said the Governor General, referring to The Bahamas’ relationship with Cuba.
“The ultimate sacrifice of our four valiant marines and the ongoing dangers encountered by their crew, reminds us that members of the defence force and other security forces protect their nation by placing their lives in harm’s way [and ] for this, they deserve a grateful nation.”
Survivors of the 1980 incident, their family members, as well as family members of the four deceased men attended Friday’s ceremony.
Also in attendance and participating in the laying of wreaths were the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Dr. The Most Honorable Hubert Minnis; Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Darren Henfield; Minister of Education, the Honourable Jeffrey Lloyd; Ms. Stephanie Bowers, Chargé d’Affaires , U.S. Embassy (Nassau); the Commander Defence Force, Commodore Tellis Bethel and heads of law enforcement agencies.
The annual ceremony also brought together, survivors and family members of the four missing marines of the ill-fated craft.
Tributes in memory of other members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, who would have died in the line of duty since the Flamingo incident (including the former Commanding Officer of HMBS FLAMINGO, the late Senior Commander Amos Rolle, who died earlier this year) were also paid.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Liberal Party issued a statement on Friday, noting that the four young men who died made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of their country.
“We remember the late Fenrick Sturrup, David Tucker, Edward Williams and Austin Smith. May they rest in peace. We remember their late Captain Amos Rolle who passed away just this year.
We pray for the survivors who are still with us,” the PLP said.