The capital of the Gomoa West District in the Central Region has been thrown into a state of mourning after 20 teenagers who went to have fun at the beach last Sunday got drowned.
The victims, aged between 14 and 17, used an illegal route through a lagoon in order not to be noticed by fisher folk at the beach before getting to the other side of the beach to swim.
The Apam District Police Commander, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Moses Osakonor, who confirmed the incident to the Daily Graphic, said the tragedy occurred about 5 p.m. last Sunday.
Although there is a nationwide ban on activities at the beach due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the children managed to mobilise themselves to swim on that fateful day on the blind side of the police and fishermen.
A preliminary report by the police indicates that while the children were swimming, a heavy tidal wind blew, which got them drowned and their bodies carried away.
A Good Samaritan raised the alarm and two of the children who were also in the sea were rescued and rushed to the St Luke Catholic Hospital to receive medical attention.
A search party immediately jumped into the sea in an attempt to retrieve the bodies throughout the night but it was unsuccessful and had to retire.
However, around 7 a.m. yesterday, four of the lifeless bodies of the teenagers were retrieved.
Then, around 10 a.m., the team managed to retrieve three more bodies, while around 2 p.m. the same day, five additional bodies were retrieved, bringing the total number of bodies retrieved as of the time of filing this report to 12.
DSP Osakonor said his outfit got information about the tragedy around 6 p.m. last Sunday and quickly rushed to the scene.
He noted that two of the victims who were rescued were receiving treatment at the St Luke Catholic Hospital in Apam and assisting the police in their investigations, adding: “As we speak now, the lifeless bodies of 12 of the children, two girls and 10 boys, have been retrieved and deposited at the morgue of the same hospital.”
He said according to the two survivors, they could not recollect the exact number of children in the water at the time the incident occurred, saying: “A 14-year-old boy who survived told the police that they were more than 20 in the water.”
He explained that the boy told the police that he was initially playing football at the beach but was lured into the sea by his peers who were already swimming before the incident happened.
The Police Commander noted further that the police, together with the leadership of the fisherfolk, were surprised about the incident, since they had strictly enforced the ban on activities at the beach.
“We are surprised about this incident, since we have ensured strict enforcement of the ban on activities at the beach. We do not know how the children managed to get to the beach, leading to this tragic incident,” he said.
Town in sombre mood
The incident has thrown the otherwise quiet town into a sombre mood, as the victims’ parents and their friends and classmates cannot hold back their tears.
People gather in groups to discuss the incident, with some raising issues about why the children defied the ban to go and swim in the wake of the ban on activities at all beaches aimed at controlling the further spread of the COVID-19.
Some mourners could not fathom how the children managed to come together to go to the beach through an unapproved route without being noticed, leading to the tragedy.
Mr Ekow Addow, whose elder brother’s daughter was among the deceased, said that the news of his niece’s demise came to the family as a shock, as they could not fathom how she (name withheld) got to the beach.
He noted that out of desperation, he joined the rescue team and managed to retrieve the girl’s lifeless body, which has since been deposited at the morgue.
Meanwhile, the search party is on the high seas to see if more bodies can be retrieved.