DEMEL Osbourne and Shane Burke — the two St Andrew College students who drowned during a school field trip in Portland earlier this month — were laid to rest following a heartrending funeral service at the First Baptist Church in St Andrew.
Hundreds of relatives, friends, and even persons who did not know the boys, crammed inside and outside the church on Sandringham Avenue, and openly mourned the teenagers’ untimely end.
Some sobbed silently and some screamed in grief, while others — like Burke and Osbourne’s older sisters Shanika and Denise, respectively — fainted continuously throughout the service.
Tribute after tribute offered comfort to the families, whose members seemed inconsolable.
Osbourne was 17, while Burke was 16.
“I have not smiled in the last two weeks, I have not smiled since the incident,” said a sombre Donovan Issacs, principal of St Andrew College. “I cannot speak for the experience of the families… but the teachers and students are having it very difficult. The students, especially those who were close to them, cry everyday,” said Issacs, before reflecting on the short lives of the boys.
“That dash (between the boys’ birthdays and the date of their deaths) represent their life choices, and unfortunately that dash for Demel and Shane had to be so short,” he said as he offered condolence to their parents.
He urged members of the students and other members of the congregation to be cognisant of the choices that they make in life.
His remarks followed those by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, who offered tributes on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
“All of us at the Ministry of Education have a heart full of sympathy for their (boys) relatives and friends. We offer you our love and promise of support in whatever way we can,” said Thwaites, who also challenged the congregation to value their lives.
“We need to challenge ourselves to respect and treasure life. They call this the present and the present is a gift,” he said. “Today is all we have, and we are to give thanks for their (boys’) lives, even as we mourn their passing,” he said, as he encouraged the boys’ families not to cast blame on anyone for their deaths.
Both students drowned on February 2, at a beach in Bryan’s Bay Portland, after Osbourne got into difficulty while swimming, and Burke, who was close by, entered the water in an effort to save him. Both were swept away by strong currents.
The two were among a group of 40 students who were given approval to attend a field trip in St Mary. Teachers responsible for the group, however, diverted from the destination at the end of the trip and ended up at the beach in Portland.
Osbourne’s body was found the same day, while Burke’s remains were fished from the sea by divers and fishermen on his birthday four days later.
Yesterday, persons were allowed to view Osbourne’s body. Burke’s casket, however, remained closed.
Their remembrance, read by Sharon Sinclair, vice-principal of St Andrew’s College; and Donovan Jackson, Burke’s church sister, spoke of the funfilled lives the two boys lead.
Osbourne was remembered as a skilful cricketer, while Burke, an aspiring doctor, was described as an active teenager who “always acted as if he was God’s gift to women.”
The two were laid to rest at the Dovecot Memorial Park in St Catherine.