Paria enquiry witness had to shout at diving-company staff

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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

KIRT SCOTT, offshore operator at Kenson, which is an agent of Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, said he had to keep shouting at LMCS staff to get them to respond when five divers went missing.

He was speaking at the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the Paria diving tragedy at an undersea pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre.

Scott testified on Tuesday at the commission at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

CoE assistant counsel Ronnie Bissessar read Scott’s witness statement, in which he recounted getting no feedback when he alerted LMCS staff that he had just seen a splash in the sea near where the divers had been working. LCMS was the company which employed the divers working on the pieline.

He read, “Upon alerting them, I noticed that they did not make any immediate checks. I recall raising my voice, demanding of them that checks within the area and inside the chamber be made.”

Scott’s statement said he urged LMCS to begin an emergency back-up plan.

Bissessar read that Scott said he alerted offshore terminal supervisor Jonathan Ramadhan to come, as he was getting no response from the contractor (LMCS). His statement said he urged them to try to contact the divers by radio or by knocking on the pipeline.

After LMCS diver supervisor (Farah) had entered the chamber and then returned, Scott sought details from LMCS, but got none, until finally he was told the divers were missing, Bissessar read out.

Scott’s statement said LMCS refused to let him view a video recording of events inside the chamber before the splash to help ascertain what had happened.

Questioned by CoE counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Scott said he works at Paria, to which he daily reports, and which instructs him.

Scott recalled rain was falling on February 25, when he was periodically checking a television monitor of the divers at work, in between checking a tarpaulin shelter.

He said it was his first time ever seeing inside the chamber where the men were working.

Maharaj asked if Paria had instructed him to monitor the work taking place inside the chamber.

Scott replied no. He said the screen was being monitored by LMCS dive supervisor Andrew Farah and Kenson employee Houston Marjadsingh, whom he described as a maintenance technician, with a few other people also watching. Other unidentified individuals also passed by and glanced at the screen, which was on a walkway at berth six, Scott related.

Paria counsel Gilbert Peterson asked Scott to say who he had to raise his voice at, on seeing the splash and realising something was wrong.

Scott said he notified the LMCS dive supervisor and LMCS HSE (health, safety and environment) personnel who were on the barge.

Peterson asked how many times Scott had to raise his voice to get their attention and response.Scott could not recall exactly, but agreed with Peterson’s surmise that it was “more than once.”

Camini Persaud-Maharaj, counsel for LMCS, cross-examined Scott. She asked if he recalled Farah looking into the sea near where the monitor screen was.

Scott replied, “I did not observe that.”

Persaud-Maharaj asked if he had seen Farah speaking or shouting to anyone on the barge.

Scott said, “I can’t recall right now.”

Asked if he had observed anyone from the barge speak to Farah, he replied, “Not from where I was.”

Persaud-Maharaj asked if he had seen Farah put on his gear and enter the water. He replied yes.

She asked how long after the splash Farah had entered the water.

Scott replied, “It could have been approximately 15-20 minutes after.”

When commission chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, told Scott he was free to go, at the end of the session, he muttered “Thank God.”

Lynch quipped, “I think you’re not the only one who’s going to say that tonight.”