Lawyer for divers’ families demand answers from Paria

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prakash Ramadhar, attorney for the families of deceased divers Yusuf Henry, Fyzal Kurban, and who also represents Christopher Boodram, the sole survivor of an underwater accident at Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, Pointe-a-Pierre. File photo/Sureash Cholai

A DAY after the Energy Minister named three out of the five-member committee – chaired by an attorney – to investigate the deaths of four divers while doing work for Paria Fuel Trading Company, attorneys representing families of two of the dead men threatened legal action against the company.

On Friday, Prakash Ramadhar, lead attorney for the families of Yusuf Henry and Fyzal Kurban, said he and other attorneys have written Paria chairman Newman George to ensure that he preserves all evidence from before and after, “that fateful day.”

“Sometimes evidence can be lost. Evidence can be distorted. The country needs to know the truth of what transpired, especially the families of these deceased people and all affected by it,” Ramadhar said.

“We intend to take steps to bring all of these matters before a court of law where evidence will be taken and will be subjected to cross-examination. In the end, the country would hear, more so too, the Judiciary would be in a position to make an assessment of the evidence, determinations and judgments in these matters.”

Ramadhar spoke at a press conference at his office at Lord Street, San Fernando on Friday.

Ramadhar together with Stefan Ramkissoon, Ted Roopnarine, Kiel Taklalsingh and Kishore Ramadhar are also representing the lone survivor, Christopher Boodram. The two other men who died are Rishi Nagassar and Kazim Ali Jr.

The five who worked for LMCS, a private contractor, were doing underwater maintenance to pipeline on Berth Six off Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25. They were sucked into a 30-inch pipeline. Boodram was rescued that same day.

The bodies of Kurban, Ali Jr and Henry were recovered on Monday night and Nagassar’s body was found early on Thursday.

On Thursday, Energy Minister Stuart Young announced that Eugene Tiah, Shiv Sharma, Gregory Wilson, and two others are to probe the tragedy. Sharma, an attorney, will chair the committee. The two unnamed members are to be sourced from global energy companies bp and Shell.

Ramadhar called on the committee to hand over all evidence to the families’ attorneys so “we can better furnish ourselves as we take steps to give justice for these families.”

He said: “There is some evidence that we have already obtained. We are preserving and keeping it in quiet solitude for a moment to see what Paria will put on the table. If it is there is an effort to cover up anything, rest assured, we intend to pursue not just civil remedies but criminal remedies.”

There have been public calls for the company’s board to resign pending the outcome of the investigations and Ramadhar said he supports this view, saying people who hold authority must understand that with authority comes responsibility.

“It has long been a standard in all civilised countries that wherever serious allegations for possible liability may rest, the people who are in a position to influence the outcome of an investigation should be removed from those positions,” Ramadhar said.

Ramadhar accused Paria of being culpable, based on preliminary reports. Ramadhar and the other attorneys for the families accused the company of acting with callous disregard for human life.

The attorney assured that he was not bashing the Energy Minister, considering he and Young had been communicating on the issue.

Ramadhar also expressed gratitude to activist Philip Alexander and Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union representatives for morally supporting the affected families.

“We (attorneys) have a hand to play. We have the hand of the society’s conscience,” Ramadhar said.

If Paria’s chairman fails to respond to the attorneys’ letter within seven days, Ramadhar said he and his team have “firm instructions to approach the High Court for the appropriate remedies.”