It was a sad day for residents of Apam in the Gomoa West District of the Central Region, after scores of teenagers from the area, drowned in a tragic incident.
The teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 years, and numbering over 13, reportedly went for a swim on Sunday afternoon when the wild tidal waves took them far into the sea, drowning some of them.
Several developments, including government intervention have since emerged, and in this piece, we bring you an account of events as they have happened since March 7, 2021.
As is the norm, Sundays are ‘game day’ for youth in this area. This is when they gather together by the beach to play some good football. They call it ‘Sunday Special.’
It was on such a day like this that the incident happened. According to one of the survivors, Simon Dadzie, a form two student at the Apam Presbyterian School, he and his friends usually swim on Sundays after a football game, to get the sand off their bodies.
“We didn’t go there to swim originally. We went to play football and after that, we went to swim just to get the sand off our bodies,” he said.
This account seems to debunk previous ones that sought to suggest that the teenagers were involved in promiscuous activities including having sex on the shores of the beach, the reason they were drowned.
An eye witness and good samaritan who helped with the rescue of some of these persons, Kobby, told GhanaWeb the suggestions were false. “The elders who were suggesting the teenagers were here having sex, it’s all a lie.”
Playing on the blind side of their parents:
The victims of the unfortunate incident are said to have gone to the beach on the blind side of their parents, fisher folk and the police. Spokesperson of the Apam Fishermen Association, Nana Kow Panyin explained to the media, that prior to the incident, the Apam sea has been inaccessible and closed to the public since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No one has been visiting the sea. We issued strong warnings to ensure no one goes to the sea,” he said.
Rescuers recount incident:
Some of the victims were rescued and rushed to the St. Luke’s Hospital in the area.
According to some youth who spoke to GhanaWeb in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, it was an experience that was scary and sad. They among other things recounted their struggle, how horrific the entire incident was and how it has, subsequently left very grave memories on their minds.
Kow and Kobby are both residents. Kobby joined the rescue team to save his 13-year-old nephew.
“At the time, we didn’t know they were drowning, we thought they had just drowned far off into the sea. So we took a rope which we play with, and swam with it, with the intention that we could get them to hold the rope and come to shore but we swam for long and couldn’t reach them and we started getting tired but we still went on.
“There’s a part of the sea where the waves turn round like a whirlwind and when anyone gets to that part, and you don’t know how to swim, it’s easy to die…In all we saw six but saved 5 excluding the girl who drowned but she had already drowned when we got there,” Kow said.
Kobby who managed to save his nephew on the other hand said, “This thing has never happened before, I have never seen anything like it before. The last boy I took by the time I got there, the last boy was slippery, he was too tired, and he told me so I had to put him in the canoe and pull him to the shore.
An additional body has been retrieved as at Thursday March 11, following the recovery of the first 12 on Monday after the incident that happened on Sunday.
Confirming the incident and detailing the numbers as far as deceased persons and survivors are concerned, the spokesperson of the Apam Fishermen Association, Kow Panyin, told GhanaWeb that 12 of the teenagers who drowned have been identified.
Of the deceased persons, 2 were females and 11 of them males.
Gilbert Assandoh, Isaac Affisah, Adwoa Vi, Joshua Hammond, Prince Peprah, John Arthur, Christopher Ewusi, Ebenezer Forson, Benjamin Narh, Kweku Atta, King Beri Addison and Emmanuel Ansah whose body was retrieved on Thursday March 11, 2021.
10 of these teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 are from the Apam Community, 2 are from Ankamu (Apam Junction) and 1 girl from Cape Coast.
Meanwhile, two of the bodies are still yet to be identified.
Akufo-Addo, HawaKoomson donate:
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, through the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mavis Hawa Koomson presented an amount of GH¢10,000 to the chiefs of Apam on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
This is to help retrieve the remaining bodies as well as purify the land after the rather strange event.
An amount of GH¢20,000 was given to the families of the 12 deceased persons. Out of this money, GH¢6,000 would be taken out for mortuary services.
The two survivors; 14-year-old Godred Apretse and 15-year-old Simon Dadze also received GH¢1,000 each.
The GH¢2,000 for the survivors was donated personally from the coffers of the fisheries minister.
The leadership of the Apam Fishing Community linked Sunday’s tragic drowning of the teenagers at the beach to spiritual forces, saying the children swam at the sacred portion of the sea.
They, therefore, insisted that further rituals needed to be performed to avert another calamity.
The leadership of the fisherfolks as well as the Police Command expressed shock about the incident, since they had strictly enforced the ban on activities at the beach.
“We are surprised about what has happened, because we have ensured strict compliance of the ban on activities at the beach,” they stated.
This came to light when the Central Regional Coordinating Director, Mr Adjei Boahen together with officials of the Ghana Police Service, NADMO and the National Fire Service visited the scene to interact with the leadership of the fishermen on Tuesday.
The visit was on the instruction of the Regional Minister, Mrs Justina Marigold Assan, to enable the team get first had information on the incident, discuss and also ascertain the possible mode of burial for the victims but it was inconclusive.
The bodies of the drowned teenagers have since been deposited at the Apam Catholic Morgue. A mass burial has been suggested to the families of the 13 teenagers.