By Stanford Conway
A US citizen is high in praise of the St. Kitts and Nevis Security Forces after a search party found the injured woman lying on the bed of one of the many Ghauts atop Mount Liamuiga.
Linda Campbell, a teacher at Grosse Ile in Detroit, Michigan, USA and a resident of that State, fell off a cliff on Wednesday afternoon, while on a hike with her fiancé atop Mount Liamuiga.
“I would like to thank the people of St. Kitts, especially those members of the Police Force and the military who had worked very hard in the dark of the night to save my life. All that I can say it that this island is just remarkable, the people are wonderful and each one of those men who cared so much for me…when I think about them it makes me cry.
“So, thank you! Thank you to the people of St. Kitts and thank you for saving my life, because I think I would have died down there last night if I had stayed there all night. Thank you!” said Campbell.
According to Campbell, she and her fiancé Douglas May, of Royal Oak, Michigan, USA, arrived in St. Kitts last Sunday and decided to revisit some of the sites they saw during their previous visit to the island last year.
“We were here in St. Kitts last year around this time and we had a wonderful time and could not wait to come again. Last year, while we were here, we took a guided hike up to the crater on Mount Liamuiga and yesterday we thought we could have done it alone. However, I got tired during the climb but Doug wanted to go on to the crater; so I turned around and started back down the trail very slowly.
“I somehow got off the trail, slipped and fell off a cliff and down into an old riverbed with lots of huge boulders. It was just a miracle that I did not break my back or my neck or knocked myself out, but I did injure my knee,” Campbell said.
Campbell explained that because of the injury she could not have climbed the almost sheer-faced cliff to get back on the trail, and decided to walk along the Ghaut with the hope of finding someone or an avenue leading back to her original route.
She however fell a second time, hitting her head and back against a boulder and irritating her already injured knee, but, “again it was a miracle because there were no injuries to my neck or back.”
“About this time, it started to get dark and I made up my mind to remain up there until daylight because Doug did not know where I was. I myself did not know where I was…I believed it was in the middle of the rain forest. So I found some rocks upon which I rested my injured knee and lay there praying for help,” added Campbell.
Campbell explained that she had fallen off the cliff at about 3:30 p.m. and was on the Ghaut going thorough her ordeal for approximately four hours.
“I have been down on the river bed for about four hours and I made up my mind that I was going to survive the ordeal with the hope that the good people of St. Kitts would come and save me. So I lay there for about three hours. It started to get very cold and when I looked up through the canopy of the tall trees I saw a lone star, and I prayed to that star for someone to come and find me,” said Campbell.
Meanwhile, her fiancé who had reached the crater, returned to the area where their vehicle was parked but did not see her.
He made a report at the St. Paul’s Police Station and was fearful for her safety after it was known that she did not return to the Leeward House where they are residing during their 7-day vacation on the island.
May told this newspaper that he, Woman Sergeant (W/SGT) Carla Wallace and another police officer went back up the mountain in search of Campbell.
May pointed out that with the use of his Global Positioning System (GPS), he was able to pinpoint the exact position he last saw his fiancé.
He added that W/SGT Wallace called for re-enforcement, which included police officers from the Sandy Point and St. Paul’s Police Stations and a number of civilians from St. Paul’s Village.
May noted that the search commenced shortly after 5 p.m. but proved futile after darkness stepped in. He however stated that W/SGT Wallace contacted her superiors and requested assistance from the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force (SKNDF).
According to Staff Officer responsible for Operations, Training and Intelligence, Major Leroy Perceval, a section of reserved soldiers from ‘B’ Company, under the command of Lance Corporal (LCPL) Calvin “Cap” Cooke, were sent with lanterns and flashlights to assist the police in the search for the missing US citizen.
Major Perceval told The Observer that W/SGT Wallace was in contact with him by cellular phone throughout the search and rescue operation and he was confident that, under her leadership, the operation would have been successful, “because she is disciplined and always show commitment and professionalism in the execution of her duty.”
Reports state that the search party located the missing woman at about 10:30 p.m.
“About 10 minutes after my last prayer for help I heard voices shouting my name and I answered. It was the police and the military. I called out to them in the darkness and they located my position on the riverbed.
She noted the concern of all those who assisted in getting her to safety and was amazed in seeing how the soldiers constructed a stretcher to bear her bruised body by using their camouflage jackets and pieces of saplings from within the area of rescue.
Campbell’s ordeal ended around 1:30 a.m. the following day after she was taken to the Joseph N France General Hospital, where she was admitted and treated for bruises and contusions to her left knee and left leg. She was discharged today, Friday, and is scheduled to return to the USA on Sunday.
Adding his kudos to the search party, May said, “We were treated politely, professionally and with courtesy. The people who worked under very adverse conditions to rescue my fiancé knew what they were doing and when to do what they did.
“I felt very bad and horrible not seeing her in the vehicle but after speaking with SGT Wallace I had great hope of finding Linda. I was also very impressed with the professionalism and kindness of W/SGT Wallace, the soldiers and all those who in the search party; because though one may demonstrate professionalism one may not show kindness, but this is not so in St. Kitts.”
Both Campbell and her fiancé said noted that the incident would not deter them from coming back to St. Kitts and they intend to spread the word of Kittitian hospitality back in the US.