With deaths and injuries resulting from jet-ski related accidents still fresh in many minds, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) is standing resolute in its opposition to the lifting of the four-year-old ban on the popular watercraft.
“The central issue is that jet skis have been proven to be extremely dangerous and have resulted in violent and tragic injuries and in far too many instances deaths,” said JHTA boss Omar Robinson while speaking at the association’s recent annual general meeting in Montego Bay, St James.
Robinson noted that the operation of jet skis, especially unlicensed ones, caused major concerns several years ago when a nine-year-old girl was killed in an accident involving one of the watercraft.
“Jet skis have been proven to be a most disruptive watersports activity in Jamaica,” said Robinson.
“They have been used by licensed and unlicensed operators for uncontrollable solicitation of visitors as well as for the unchecked distribution and sale of drugs.”
The JHTA has had meetings with Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and other ministry officials to outline its strong objection to the lifting of the ban, which its members see as crucial in creating a safe sector for locals and visitors as well as saving lives.
The ban on jet skis was imposed in 2014 after Tomas Torres Castillo, an American tourist from Las Vegas, Nevada, was killed in the resort town of Negril Westmoreland, when a speeding jet ski slammed into him while he was swimming at the Travellers Beach Resort.
Castillo, who was on vacation in Negril with his wife, Maria, was a guest at the Travellers Beach Resort at the time of his death.
A year earlier, in August 2013, six-year-old Tonoya Hyman was killed in a freak accident involving a jet ski in the same resort town. Hyman and her sister were hit when an out-of-control jet ski raced on to the beach, where they were swimming.“We remember the deadly accidents in 2013 and 2014, which have had a significant [financial impact] on to members and would not like to witness any more senseless deaths,” said Robinson.
“Since the most recent moratorium, there has been a marked reduction in the use of jet skis, and this has resulted in lives being saved. There is nothing to suggest that the irresponsible and dangerous behaviour of personal watercraft operators, which prompted the ban in 2014, has changed,” added Robinson.