Paria drownings enquiry resumes –Chairman Lynch hits treatment of families

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd in Pointe-a-Pierre.

AT THE post-Christmas resumption of the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the Paria diving tragedy on Wednesday at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, commission chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, lamented Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd’s initial treatment of the families of the divers who were trapped undersea.

The relatives were locked out of Paria’s premises for 24 hours.

On February 25, while repairing a Paria pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre, divers Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry and Christopher Boodram were sucked into an undersea pipeline by a surge in water pressure known as a Delta P.

Only Boodram escaped alive, with the others all drowning.

CoE counsel Ramesh Maharaj, SC, related that on the fateful day, anxious families of the trapped men were left in the Paria car park but denied entry to the premises for Friday afternoon, evening and night. He said families were denied entry even as they tried to speak to someone about their loved ones.

Paria terminal and trading manager Mushtaq Mohammed said, “I’m not aware of that.”

Maharaj read a witness statement by Vanessa Kussie, wife of Nagassar, saying when she approached security guards at the compound entrance for information, that interaction had been the first time the guards were hearing of the accident.

Maharaj read an account of how relatives constantly kept approaching individuals – including an ambulance and a diving company official – entering or leaving the premises, to try to seek any details on their loved ones. Lynch asked, “were you aware of any of this?”

Mohammed said LMCS owner Kazim Ali Sr was tasked with communicating with the families. He said this was the first time he was hearing of such claims made in Kussie’s witness statement.

Lynch remarked sternly, “Just to reflect for a moment on what she said. She is at Paria attempting to find out what’s going on, and apparently no one’s telling anybody anything.

“They (relatives) are resorting to have to (be) stopping cars entering and/or leaving the premises to find out what’s happening. On any view not an acceptable position, is it?”

Mohammed agreed this was unacceptable.

When Lynch asked if Paria, upon realising the tragedy unfolding, had ultimately offered facilities to accommodate the families, Mohammed said this was done by Saturday afternoon.

Lynch declared, “Twenty fours hours after the event is not an acceptable approach, is it?”

Mohammed paused for a few seconds as he considered response.

Lynch prodded to get a reply. “Come on Mr Mohammed. These are the victim’s families.”

Mohammed finally said, “I wouldn’t argue that point.”