Still no sign of businessman suspected to have drowned

Still no sign of businessman suspected to have drowned

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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THE St Elizabeth police say they are yet to recover the body of popular businessman Andre Burnett, who is suspected to have drowned at Frenchman Reef in Treasure Beach in the parish on Sunday.

Burnett, a 34-year-old marketer from Balaclava, is said to have visited the area as part of a weekend getaway with his family when tragedy struck.

Reports from the police are that the Munro College old boy had gone for a leisurely swim and was waist-deep in the water when he was enveloped by a strong wave.

Burnett, who left his chief executive post at Muse 360 Integrated Limited to start Fren and Company Limited, has not been seen since. He was also the first creative director of The Lab.

His wife, Rochelle, is said to have witnessed Sunday’s incident, which occurred as heavy rains from the outer bands of tropical wave Zeta — now a hurricane — battered the island.

The incident is said to have occurred shortly after 3:00 pm.

Yesterday, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Leroy Minott told the Jamaica Observer that a request was sent to Up Park Camp for Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) members to assist in the search for Burnett.

However, he said the conditions brought on by unfavourable weather conditions made it difficult for any search and rescue operation to take place.

“He is suspected to have drowned, [but] we have to approach with caution in these matters. Based on what was reported and based on what our team would have picked up, the indication is that this businessman may have drowned. We haven’t recovered the body yet, but based on the initial report, it would suggest strongly that that possibility is real,” DSP Minott said.

“…The prevailing weather condition and the time of the evening were factors that militated against a search. From communication, I understand that the sea at this time is very, very rough. So rescue operations would be really difficult right now. but we have sought assistance and that’s where we’re going,” he added.

At the same time, the lawman urged Jamaicans to heed the advice issued by authorities with regards to adverse weather conditions.

He said, at all times, Jamaicans must remain conscious of their environment.

“It cannot be that persons go swimming in areas that are known to be dangerous or when underwater currents are strong and storms are close by with strong activity on the ocean floor. Anybody who saw those waves would have known what is happening. Persons just have to be conscious of their environments. You have to look out for dangers that lurk, especially at this time when all the alerts are out about weather systems. It’s amazing that anyone would choose to go to the beach, even more so beaches that are known to have underwater currents in the best of times,” the DSP said.

As news of Burnett’s disappearance spread, social media users, among whom he was popular, expressed disbelief. Several politicians, including Burnett’s friend Dr Dayton Campbell, Peter Bunting and Mark Golding expressed sorrow at the news.

“I’m heartbroken. ‘Dre was so instrumental in the creative build-out of The Lab. He was our first creative director. It was his creative mind that allowed us to be known as the innovators in the local advertising industry, but he was also like a little brother to me. We had so many conversations of how we wanted to change how creative practitioners are viewed in Jamaica and the importance of using mentorship and training to hone the skills of future generations of creative minds. He was one of the smartest persons I know, and I will be forever grateful for what he has done for The Lab and for me as an entrepreneur,” The Lab CEO Kimala Bennett told the Observer.

Publicist and close friend of Burnett, Dania Beckford, too, expressed sadness at his disappearance.

“Dre had such a complex, creative mind, always with the biggest smile as he said, ‘Meds dis’, when he would come up with the next big idea. He believed in bringing all his friends along with him on his creative journeys, so for me, we worked on campaigns together — me on the public relations side and him as creative director.

“He was also instrumental in my own journey as a voice-over actor for many brands, but I will miss him most of all for all our random talks about building a legacy of success, not only for our families and communities, but for generations of creative minds who once thought success can only be had if you entered a traditional profession. One of his favourite quotes was: ‘Life, if well lived, is long enough’. I am saddened, but I am happy because he lived well,” said Beckford.

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