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Connie Campbell, former back-up singer for reggae singer, Tarrus Riley, passed away on Saturday, her sister Sandra Campbell confirmed to

Connie, who suffered multiple strokes in September 2009, while on tour with the group in Maryland, USA, has been hospital and in a coma ever since.

She was transferred from a hospital in the United States and was subsequently a patient at the Kingston public hospital in Kingston. According to her sister, may persons have been calling, sh she “posted the news (of Connie’s passing) on Facebook”.

The music fraternity had put on a benefit concert for Connie in 2010, to help offset the rising costs of her hospital care.

When Connie fell ill, initially, saxophonist, Dean Fraser, had described the situation as “frightening”. “It is just unreal… frightening,” he had said then.

In a conversation with this reporter at Irie Jamboree in New York in 2009, a shell-shocked Dean, related the incident which had taken place a few weeks earlier.

He said  the group had been on a tour stop in Maryland and while at rehearsals, the decision was taken, in the interest of time, not to go back to the hotel, but instead to freshen up on spot and wait for showtime.

“Connie went into the bathroom and shortly after another member of the group followed her. Then I heard a scream and when we ran to the bathroom, we realised that Connie had fainted. She soon revived and said she was feeling all right. However, I insisted that she go to the hospital, although in my head, she passed out because she probably wasn’t eating right. And, on tour, we always tease each other about that kind of thing,” Fraser recalled.

Fraser, Riley and the others performed without Connie and, right after the show, Fraser headed to the hospital to pick up the back-up singer.

“I was a bit surprised that she wasn’t calling me every minute to come and get her, and I was prepared for a little tracing from her when I reached,” Fraser said with a wry smile.

However, the sight that greeted him at the hospital made his knees buckle and his heart almost stop beating.

A semi-conscious Connie was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up with tubes to a machine. She was having what Fraser described as violent body spasms every 10 seconds.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes. I started to tremble and everything all at once. The doctors say they didn’t know what was causing shake like that so viciously and such

quick succession. They couldn’t tell me what was wrong with Connie…it was just unreal… totally frightening,” Fraser said.

He was then faced with the daunting task of reporting this mystery illness to the other members of the group and to Connie’s immediate family, all of whom wanted answers that Fraser was in no position to give.

Tarrus Riley

Fraser said that one of the hardest decisions the group had to make was to leave Connie at the hospital in Maryland and continue the tour, performing every night as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. At the end of the tour, they all returned to Maryland to look for Connie, but, unfortunately there was hardly any change. By this time, the doctors were reporting that Connie had suffered multiple strokes, leaving her with damage to the brain stem. And she was still comatose.

Subsequent visits by her musical and immediate family left them confused, but with just enough hope and inspiration.

“Connie is a strong girl with a lot of willpower,” her significant other, George, told us late September, before he went off on tour. “We were just getting ready to put together some songs for an album and she was excited about it. Although she is supposedly in a coma, when I visit her I remind her of these things and I just talk about everyday things. I keep telling myself that this is just a temporary setback and that Connie will soon be well again,” he said, doing his best to keep his composure.

George added that he had taken their young daughter to visit and she, too, did her best to talk to her mother as if she could hear. George was hoping for that miracle while he was on tour.

Last night, president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, Desmond Young, expressed his sadness at Connie’s passing. “When she was sent back from the States to KPH a group of us went to look for her. At first Connie was just staring at the ceiling, but then her eyes started moving around, as if she was telling us that she recognised us. Bwoy, I couldn’t take it. I had to go outside and before you know it my eyes were wet. I heard this morning that she had passed, and I am just so sad. But I know she is at peace and my condolences to the family. Connie was my friend,” Young said.

Efforts to contact Dean proved futile as he is reportedly overseas, but is aware of Connie’s death. sends condolences to the family of Connie Campbell.  — Yasmine Peru

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