Attorneys in diving tragedy send pre-action letters to LMCS, Paria

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorneys Prakash Ramadhar, Ted Roopnarine, Kishore Ramadhar, Sharon Jagernauth- Mohommed and Adil Ali, addressing the media at a press conference to talk about the next step in the Paria trading incident where several divers lost their lives. Ramadhar and company are representing several families. Photo by Lincoln Holder

Attorneys representing relatives of two men who died in the Paria diving tragedy on February 25 are taking legal action against state-owned Paria Fuel Trading Co. Ltd as well as the men’s employer, LMCS Ltd.

The attorneys sent pre-action protocol letters on Friday to both companies.

They also listed the Attorney General as a third defendant, asking for a “clear position” concerning liability. They accused the companies of failing to put necessary measures in place to ensure the divers’ safety and well-being.

On Friday, attorney Prakash Ramadhar held a press conference at his San Fernando law office to speak on behalf of families and his legal team.

He said if the companies accept liability, negotiations on compensation would follow.

“We have asked for information which has not yet been provided to us from Paria. But we thought it fit and proper to stir the conscience of many to proceed. We are using an ancient technique in the courts of law, called res ipsa loquitur,” Ramadhar said. “That means simply: ‘The act speaks for itself.’

” No person going to work to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families expects to die unless there are extreme circumstances.”

LMCS co-workers Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar, Fyzal Kurban and Kazim Ali Jr were sucked into a 30-inch pipe at Berth Six, Pointe-a-Pierre, while doing maintenance work. Ali Jr was the son of Kazim Ali Sr, owner of LMCS.

Paria had contracted LMCS to do the routine work.

Only one diver, Christopher Boodram, survived.

The letters identified Henry’s ten-year-old daughter as a proposed claimant, as well as Kurban and his estate, which includes his three adult children and wife.

The attorneys are also taking steps to seek an interim payment for Kurban’s daughter Brittany Kurban, who is studying in Canada.

Ramadhar said, “It costs over TT$300,000 per year for university fees and for living expenses. We wish to have some level of comfort from either one or both of these companies until the matter is determined in the courts or a proper settlement is arrived with the families.”

Ramadhar’s legal team comprised attorneys Ted Roopnarine, Kishore Ramadhar, Sharon Jaggernauth-Mohammed Kiel Taklalsingh Stefan Ramkissoon and Adil Ali, who is set to be called to the bar in two weeks.

Ramadhar emphasised that liability issues are determined by the court and not any other body.

“When divers go underwater, they expect that certain precautionary measures would have been taken to ensure that accidents are, if not eliminated, at least mitigated,” he said. “If accidents do occur, as they do in life, steps and procedures should have been put in place to ensure that (the divers) are rescued, and their safety and well-being protected. We have seen an abysmal failure in this.”

He also made allegations against the Coast Guard, accusing officers of “unlawfully preventing the rescue of the men who were still alive in the pipe.”

But, he said, “Today, we are not issuing a pre-action protocol in relation to the actions of the Coast Guard. That is a huge segment.”

On Friday afternoon, the members of the commission of enquiry (CoE) into the incident were given their instruments of appointment.

Ramadhar said his team is not waiting for disclosure from the commission of what happened.

“We hope and expect that we should have some light at the end of that very dismal tunnel as to when the commission shall sit. We are not waiting on the commission’s sitting…because that is a separate issue altogether. They have no authority to apportion liability or to deal with the issue of damages and compensation. It is for the courts of Trinidad and Tobago to do so.”