Sunday, August 26, 2012

Man's fatal fall in Cuba bewilders family

Aug 26, 2012 - 8:58 AM

Man's fatal fall in Cuba bewilders family

Tony Lumley looks dazed as he sits in his cramped Mississauga kitchen,
staring at a table piled with flowers and cards.

It has been only days since his 22-year-old son, Horace "Odaine" Lumley,
died in a mysterious balcony fall Wednesday at a Cuban resort hotel.

"I really have a hard time coping with it," Lumley says, his eyes
bloodshot. "He was such a comedian. He was the one making everybody
laugh all the time."

Since the news broke of the young man's death, a sense of tragedy has
gripped the small townhouse complex where Odaine Lumley grew up.
Neighbours have been streaming in and out of the tiny home at all hours
to share their grief.

On top of their grief, there's anger and bewilderment — that the Cuban
authorities have done little to investigate the death.

"I really don't know what happened to him. I play through different
scenarios in my head every night," said Monique Lewis, Odaine's half-sister.

Lumley was last seen alive at around midnight Wednesday at the Barcelo
Solymar Arenas Blancas Resort in Varadero Beach, where he was
vacationing with friends.

Kevin Dawson, who was sharing a hotel room with his friend, left for a
club while Lumley stayed behind, drinking with a young Toronto woman he
had met at the resort.

When Dawson returned at 4 a.m. to an empty room, he assumed Lumley was
spending the night with the woman. Then at 9 a.m. his phone rang. It was
the Cuban police.

They told him his closest friend was dead — crumpled on the pavement
outside the hotel — and he would have to identify the body.

"I broke down right away, just crying," he said. "That was my best
friend there. I loved him."

Lumley had fallen 16 metres from a third-floor balcony linked to a set
of stairs on the exterior of the building. Police told Dawson they
believed Lumley had been trying to walk down to his room on the second
floor and stumbled on the stairs.

But Dawson, who flew back to Canada on Friday, said they could not
explain why Lumley's hat and flip-flops had been removed and carefully
placed on the balcony.

"If you are drunk and stumbling around, why would you take off your
shoes and hat and lay them down like that?" he asked. "It doesn't add up."

He said he never saw police interview the woman with whom Lumley was
last seen. And when police returned Lumley's cellphone, all of his
contacts, text messages and photos had been deleted.

Back in Canada, the family, too, is wondering why the Canadian Embassy
in Cuba did not immediately contact them. They learned of their son's
death from Dawson, who called the manager at the store where he and
Lumley worked.

Family members said an autopsy carried out in Cuba has determined the
fall was the cause of death. They have not yet been contacted about the
body being released.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that consular officials are
assisting the family of a Canadian who died in Cuba, but it declined to
give further details, citing privacy reasons.

Cuban authorities could not be reached for comment.

The Varadero Beach area is one of Cuba's busiest tourist destinations.
Lumley's sister said this was the first time her brother had travelled
abroad other than to Jamaica.

On Friday, friends and family gathered at the family home remembered
Lumley as a charismatic, ambitious young man who had been planning to
study electrical engineering at Humber this fall.

Stepmother Ethlyn Barrett said she considered herself a second mother to

"I would like him remembered as a fun-loving guy," she said. "He was
always happy, always smiling. He was a people person."

The family hopes to bury Lumley in Jamaica, where his mother lives.

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