Wreath-laying marks 40th anniversary of Son Chapman tragedy
Stabroek News
July 13, 2004

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Leader of the Opposition and the PNCR, Robert Corbin and Mayor of Georgetown Hamilton Green were among a number of persons who travelled last week to Hurudaia on the Demerara River, some 17 miles from Linden, to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Son Chapman tragedy.

The ceremony was held to honour the memory of the 43 men, women and children who were killed when an explosive device went off aboard the Son Chapman launch en route to Linden on July 6, 1964.

Speaking at the ceremony, Corbin said "a nation that fails to record its history is bound to make the same mistakes again."

He recalled the fateful day when he was a child residing at Christianburg, Wismar. "I remember that day clearly when the news got to Linden, I was at the Christianburg school and by that time bodies had floated as far as the Christianburg cemetery."

Mayor Green, who was then the General Secretary of the PNC whose leader was LFS Burnham, former president of Guyana, noted that the incident will always remain fresh in his mind. "When news reached LFS Burnham I was the first to be dispatched to Linden to see what was going on."

Green said it is his hope that there would be not just a recording of the events that led to the blowing-up of the Son Chapman, but also an incisive intellectual analysis of the evil minds that allowed it to happen.

Corbin, Green and owner of the Son Chapman launch, Norman Chapman were among those who laid wreaths at the site at Hurudaia where a number of persons were buried.

The Son Chapman used to ply the Mackenzie/ Georgetown river route transporting passengers and cargo in the 1960s. On the ill-fated day the launch had left the Stabroek Market wharf with passengers and cargo consisting of paddy, flour, sugar, greens and ground provisions. Evidence during an inquest revealed that the boat later stopped at the fish koker near Sussex Street where five bags of rice were loaded on the vessel.

At around 4.30 pm that day when the launch was some 300 yards from Hurudaia, approximately one hour's travelling time from Linden, there was a loud explosion. Persons were flung into the river, while others appeared to have died instantly. Some passengers jumped into the Demerara River as the launch sank within minutes of the explosion. Survivors recalled the gory scene with persons swimming to shore or clinging to floating objects while others were screaming for help as they the river engulfed them.

Regional authorities and the commemorative committee are working to erect a monument in Linden in honour of those who perished on the ill-fated day.