Savannah Finn, who recently turned 23 years old, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida drowned March 18, 2016 Friday evening at approximately 6:08 p.m. at Peterborg Point, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Savannah was a full time student at FIU in Miami Florida, and was due to graduate this year. Savannah arrived in St. Thomas on Thursday with her boyfriend to “visit” another couple living on the island. On Friday the two couples took off for an island adventure to explore St. Thomas, ending up at Peterborg Point for the sunset. The weather, we have been told, by eyewitnesses was the seas were very rough, sky was clear and wind was brisk.
Savannah was raised around the water her entire life. Boating and swimming in the ocean at Fort Lauderdale beach. She loved the beauty of the ocean and loved all animals, land and sea.
Peterborg Point is notorious for its mystic beauty but the locals know its’ treacherous fatal past. Most are unaware of the danger especially once you step foot off the upper solid ground area and walk over jagged rocks to get close to the beauty of the wave breaks. The area know as the “trench” and the wave pool with the constant ocean water movement lures you in. Savannah and her boyfriend, Louie were lured in. As they stood taking photos of the water rising and receding both on the rocks and in the “trench”, the other couple who were at the top solid ground area, watched a huge wave burst come over the couple and throw them both into the “trench”. The water receding in the “trench” became full of white foam as the two struggled for the rock side. A miracle happened when Louie, was suddenly lifted by the next rush of water that came into the “trench” and threw him up onto a rock. Scraped, vomiting and out of breath, he struggled to grab hold of Savannah. The Point is a popular place for couples to exchange wedding vows and it just so happened a ceremony was taking place.
The couple who accompanied Savannah and Louie ran to the wedding party with a cry for help. The photographer and videographer, both avid local divers, knew that cry for help and the photographer placed the call to law enforcement. The brave men from the wedding tied together a neck tie and shirt from their wedding apparel to make a garment rope. After several attempts to get the garment rope to Savannah in the foamy trench, she finally grabbed hold but just as she did, a second huge wave came in and pulled her down, into the trench, and spit her out at the bottom swirl between two huge boulders in the water. The waves continued to crash in and out off the point and there was nothing anyone could do.
The family understands and appreciates every effort the brave wedding party and the photographers attempted.
When all the responding agencies arrived; St Thomas Rescue, Virgin Island Police and K-9 unit, Department of Planning and Resources (the equivalent of our Parks Department State-side), V.I.T.E.M.A. (Virgin Islands Emergency Management) Savannah was face down and dropped beneath another wave. We have been told the 12 foot surges prevented any further rescue attempt that night and all operations were suspended until Saturday morning.
The call a parent never wants to receive came in to both households from the boyfriend, Louie. He was in shock that he could not save her. Savannah’s father Ray Finn, stepmother Jackie Porter Finn, Jackson Finn, arrived from Orlando, FL, while Uncle Frank Doyle arrived from West Palm Beach, FL, and Mother, Julie Finn, older brother Kyle Finn, and Uncle Kenny Doyle from Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Throughout the day on Peterborg Point Saturday, St.Thomas Rescue, maintained command post utilizing available rescue resources like Jeff’s Jet Ski Services who battled the wicked waves to get up close looking for any signs of Savannah or her clothing. The seas were still churning against the rocks at the Point and rescue efforts were limited, however, Mick Lynch provided to St Thomas Rescue a drone to get arial views of the cracks and crevices, which at the time were to dangerous for Rescue to access. The American Red Cross volunteers Carol and Charlene arrived to help console family members and offer their assistance. At sundown, Savannah had not been found.
Saturday night, Savannah’s family made calls obtaining information to help assist in her recovery efforts. Savannah’s family worked through the night to locate an experienced dive team on St. Thomas. Savannah’s brother Jackson and Uncle Frank helped with communication between Chief Thomas and family members at home.
Through stateside military friends of Savannah’s father Ray, he was able to put together the first dive team by mid-morning. John Webb, Jacob Peddic and Captain Ed from Compass Point Marina. Sunday mid-morning, the dive team arrived on scene to get a briefing from Chief Liston Thomas.
Co-ordinating with St Thomas Rescue as marine backup, John arrived with his highly experienced salvage dive team at 1:30pm (Sunday) to start the first set of three dives in the caverns and rocky terrain beneath the churning sea at Peterborg Point. On board rescue vessel the “Guardian” assisting were Savannah’s brother Kyle and Uncle Kenny. Savannah’s father Ray Finn, stepmother Jackie Porter Finn , mother Julie Finn, brother Jackson Finn and Uncle Frank Doyle were at the command post with Chief Thomas and multiple other agency team members on the Point. As sundown approached, Savannah had not been found. Family members and Chief Thomas attended a briefing Sunday evening with John Webb and his team at Compass Point Marina. The dive team found the black necktie with a small remnant of the white shirt tied together which the wedding party used in their rescue attempt. But NO Savannah.
Monday morning Chief Thomas and Savannah’s father, Ray were onboard the Rescue unit vessel “Guardian” conducting sweeps of the shorelines while Savanna’s brother Jackson and stepmother Jackie assisted volunteer Capt Rick, owner of Swashbuckling Tours who operates out of Hull Bay. More fishing captains and divers at Hull Bay heard of the family requesting volunteers. They contacted Savannah’s father offering their services. They are located one bay to the west and are experienced with all aspects of marine conditions on the Northside of the island, which Peterborg Point is located. Savannah’s family and Chief Thomas went to work with the volunteers organizing the afternoon search efforts.
Monday afternoon the volunteer Hull Bay divers with Savannah’s father and stepmother onboard arrived at the Point, brother Jackson and Uncle Frank assisted at command center on shore representing the family. The afternoon search and dive team from Hull Bay consisted of Capt. David Berry, six divers Danny LaPlace, Gene Brin, Devon Querrard, Brent Mesmer, Jerry Cowen and Frank LaPlace. Onshore volunteer support to gather gear and stay on the telephones were Alfred & Kelli Berry, Hollis Roberts and Christy Berry Cowen and Kayla Tennett. Marine support was the Rescue boat “Guardian”, US Coast Guard, and Capt. Rick of Swashbuckling Tours. Finally the sea at the Point had calmed down enough for the divers to access and enter the underwater “trench” which contains caverns. This is the most dangerous dive anyone could undertake on the island, and Savannah’s father Ray insisted they take every precaution with three divers holding the safety rope line attached to diver Danny LaPlace, he entered the “trench”. Other members were diving the outer areas for a second time. Looking for Savannah or any signs of clothing. The only piece of clothing in sight was a flipflop unreachable, stuck in a crevice, assumed to be Savannah’s.
Nearing sundown, all the vessels took different areas to sweep shorelines again. Savannah was not found.
Tuesday morning marine weather conditions were good, Savannah’s father and stepmother continued searches much farther West to the end of St. Thomas with volunteer boats, FunTime with Capt David Berry, Danny LaPlace’s boat, Frank LaPlaces’s boat including other private and agency boats we don’t know the names of. The hopes were to follow the water current patterns from the past weekend in case she had been caught on a reef and it was time for her body to surface. Two more days of searches and Savannah was not found.
The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting broadcasts on marine frequencies to all inbound and outbound vessel traffic with description of the orange shirt Savannah was wearing. As the busy Easter weekend and a local fishing tournament are upcoming we are hopeful a vessel will find her a drift or her body is found on shore. The bright orange shirt Savannah was wearing is very visible.
Thursday morning VITEMA conducted a recovery dive for Savannah’s body in another area believed to have reefs and caverns in the direction of the water currents since the accident. Still no body was found.
Efforts to recover Savannah’s body will continue.
The family of Savannah Finn wishes to convey our sincere appreciation for the generosity of Flamboyant on the Bay, Lori Baskin,GM and the owners Michael & Mercedes Shelby for donating all the lodging for the family members. To The Cup and Cork, Leanne Swain and Dan Perry who donated food and beverages to the family during their stay. To the wedding party and wedding photographers who bravely tried saving Savannah from the fierce waters of the “trench”.
To all the volunteers, agencies and people on the island that have assisted the family during this time of grief to find Savannah. Your thoughts and prayers are deeply appreciated.
As of this press release by the family, there are NO warning signs posted anywhere on the point or in the vicinity arriving to Peterborg Point. Tourists are unaware of the danger. Savannah’s family’s most important wish is that a tragedy like this does not ever happen again at Peterborg Point. Warning signs and barricades must be placed and maintained.
Sincere Appreciation, The Family of Savannah Finn.