As the terror-stricken voices of four men who had gone to do another routine day’s work, careened off the slimy oil pipe in desperate hope that someone would hear their cries, Paria President Newman George was reassuring journalists that the exercise had moved from “Rescue” of still alive men to the “Recovery’ of their dead bodies.
This was in sharp contradiction to his General Manager
On Sunday February 27, 2022 Paria held a news conference indicating that it had changed its operation regarding the four missing divers from rescuing them to recovering their bodies.
George said the move to recover the bodies was based on advice from experts, including the Coast Guard. Gerald Ramdeen, attorney for Christopher Boodram, the sole survivor, said signs of life in the pipeline came when Boodram himself indicated his colleagues were alive after he was rescued and Paria did not change its position.
He said LMCS workers were knocking on the pipeline and getting a response from the divers who were knocking back.
“You leave the people to die? Unconscionable doesn’t begin to describe that, that is industrial murder, that is what it is,” he said.
He said manslaughter charges are offenses that can come out of this as well as a range of criminal offenses to be determined after investigations.
Ramdeen presented death records which stated the date of death for Ali as February 28, 2022- the day his body was recovered. The first document he showed was the registration of death which had the February 28, 2022 date.
The second was a temporary death certificate which also bore the same date and the final was the official death certificate which also had February 28, 2022. Ramdeen also shared a photo of Paria’s whiteboard from their operations room entitled “Log of events”
The Paria enquiry has been started against the background of a number of separate events which have threatened to sully the good image of Trinidad and Tobago as a model oil exploration country, namely:
- The attempt by the USA to extradite Jack Warner for bribing persons in the USA’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup Tournament which was given to Quatar ahead of schedule;
- A man is charged for murdering his son;
- A businessman is held with loads of illegal ammunition; and
- UNC MP Barry Padarath use the party’s Monday night’s forum to call on the people for the help of God in dealing with the horrific Paria divers tragedy in a similar way that the divers were helplessly expecting that God would help them in their dilemma.
As the head of the Commission of Enquiry Jerome Lynch QC, Ramesh Maharaj SC and other legal luminaries twisted in their seats at the first public presentation of the event, television viewers could see the pain etched on their very experienced faces against the background of relentless pounding, screaming and genuine emotional enquiry about each other’s welfare within the narrow confines of a 1-inch pipe which held these men in close quarters suffocating to death by the hour.
The divers were alive and Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd did nothing to rescue them and allowed them to die.
This was the essence of attorney Gerald Ramdeen’s arguments yesterday as he shared the second autopsy report and death records of deceased diver Kazim Ali Jr.
Ramdeen has put the blame for the deaths of four divers squarely at the feet of Paria, saying the State company did not attempt to rescue the men and they prevented rescue efforts when a pathology report showed that Ali was possibly alive for up to 39 hours after being sucked into the pipeline on February 25, 2022.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, St Ann’s, Ramdeen shared a bundle of documents which he claims provides evidence that Paria left the divers to die.
Ramdeen presented the report of a second autopsy done by pathologist Hubert Daisley on Ali.
He also shared Ali’s official death certificates which stated that the date of death was February 28, 2022- three days after the divers were sucked into the pipeline on February 25, 2022.
Ramdeen also presented Paria’s log of events which showed that the company’s HSE personnel indicated that the divers had a slim chance of survival- just under two hours after the diving incident.
On February 25, 2022 five LMCS Co Ltd divers- Christopher Boodram, Fyzal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar, Kazim Ali Jr and Yusuf Henry went to # 36 sealine riser on the Berth 6 offshore platform at Pointe-A-Pierre to conduct maintenance works on a pipeline. They were all sucked into the pipeline and went missing.
Boodram was rescued by a diver who ignored Paria’s instructions. Boodram spent hours creeping through the pipeline.
On February 28 three bodies were recovered and the fourth on March 3.
The enquiry is expected to continue until Easter when it would hopefully come to an end, said the Commission Chairman who made bold to say that he had been frustrated by Paria in the supply of information requested beforehand.
Paria Attorney Peterson protested this line of approach by the Chairman Lynch who repeated his claim but identified former Energy Minister Stuart as a key figure wo helped him in the run up to the start of the Hearings.
It seems therefore that the Paria tragedy account will overshadow the usual joyful celebrations associated with Christmas, Carnival and Easter as the four divers insist their voices will be heard and justice shall be done one way or another.
After all, it’s the least we – the citizens who have become numb and walking-dead in the wake of this tragedy – can do to remind ourselves of our great capacity – not only to party and celebrate during these festive seasons– but to access our souls in recognition of our capacity for empathy and a collective expression of deep, unconditional love
This is what is now so badly needed for us to project ourselves as specially chosen people who can put our shoulders to the wheel in commitment and in glory at this crucial time in our very colorful and excitingly diverse history.