Kamla: Lock down Paria site where divers died as a crime scene

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Photo by Sureash Cholai

ALLEGING work may have restarted by a new contractor on a berth where four divers lost their lives on February 25, at Pointe-a-Pierre, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissesssar is calling for a “lockdown” and for the area to be treated as a “crime scene.”

She also called for the intervention of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob to prevent contamination of and preserve any evidence that could give clarity to what happened on that Friday afternoon.

Persad-Bissessar said she had information that a new contractor (Hull Support Services) has been engaged by Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, to continue working on the 30-inch pipeline at No 36 Sealine Riser on Berth No 6 where five divers employed by sub-contractor LMCS were sucked in by a vortex.

Divers Kazim Jeremiah Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry and Rishi Nagassar died. Christopher Boodram, the lone survivor, was rescued by one of Kurban’s sons, Michael, who is also a diver.

LMCS said in a statement it had the manpower and personnel to rescue its employees but was prevented from doing so by Paria and the Coast Guard.

Paria has since contradicted LMCS’s statement.

Government has appointed a five-member committee, led by attorney Shiv Sharma, to do an independent investigation into the mishap to find out what happened and to report back within 45 days.

The Opposition has been pressing for the removal of Eugene Tiah from that committee on the basis that he is a former client of Energy Minister Stuart Young, who is an attorney, and hence cannot be independent.

As she and her UNC colleagues mounted the pressure for Tiah to go, Persad-Bissessar called on Tiah and those defending the UNC’s objection to his presence on the committee, not to take it personally, as she was not questioning his expertise or personality.

From a United National Congress (UNC) platform on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar asked why, if the investigative committee is not yet fully constituted, Paria is engaging a new contractor.

“Stuart Young and Newman George (Paria chairman), you need to tell this country: is it true that a dive company by the name of Hull Support Services has been engaged by Paria to continue work on the pipeline where the incident happened?”

She said she had been told an orientation meeting was held on Sunday as Paria was in a race to put that particular pipeline back into service.

She said the police should have been called in immediately and an “all-stop call” made.

“In every crime scene, you lock it down. That should be a crime scene, and I am calling on the DPP and the CoP to get into this investigation to lock down what could be possible evidence, to avoid contamination of evidence, tampering of evidence.

“In my view, it could be involuntary homicide or it could be deliberate homicide. We don’t know what the investigation would tell us, and that is why we must preserve the evidence.”

Persad-Bissessar said the Coast Guard, which allegedly stopped the rescue effort, will also have to be questioned and could very well face civil suits from the families of the dead men.