10th May 2005 Staff
Today is the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the HMBS Flamingo which was unjustly attacked by Cuban MIGS off the Ragged Island chain in 1980. The Commander of the boat was Amos Rolle. Four Bahamian marines -- Fenrick Sturrup, Austin Smith, David Tucker and Edward Williams -- lost their lives in service to their country.
Larry Smith recounts the tragedy in the yesterday's Tribune:
Today, most Bahamians know little about the incident, which traumatized the country for months. In fact, the anniversary of this event, which the Castro government described as "a regrettable confusion", passed almost unnoticed.
Cuba agreed to pay $10 million in reparations for the sinking of HMBS Flamingo and the murder of the four marines - Fenrick Sturrup, Austin Smith, David Tucker and Edward Williams. And the eight Cuban fishermen who started it all were convicted of poaching in July, 1980.
On Saturday, May 10, 1980 the Flamingo was on routine patrol in the Ragged Island area when it spotted a pair of Cuban fishing boats off deserted Cay Santo Domingo, a Bahamian atoll just 35 miles from the Cuban coast.
As the Flamingo approached, the Cubans fled - until warning shots were fired. Eventually, marines boarded both boats and found 3,000 pounds of fish, lobster, conch and stone crab. The vessels were taken in tow to the nearest cay for a more thorough search.
But on the way, two Cuban MiG jet fighters appeared overhead and began strafing the Flamingo, which was soon rocked by explosions. According to Commander Amos Rolle, "I went to the radio room but there was no power. Water was already ankle deep, so I ordered my men to abandon ship."
All except four of the 19 crewmen made it to one of the fishing boats, with the Cuban jets strafing the area even as the Flamingo was going down. Despite a search by Bahamian and American rescue teams, the four marines were never found.
Commander Rolle, his