Tears, heartbreak as divers’ families return to scene of tragedy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

An emotional Venessa Kussie, widow of Rishi Nagassar, joined the families of four divers, at a memorial service near Berth 6, in the Gulf of Paria on Saturday. – Marvin Hamilton

THERE were tears, heartbreak and sorrow, as the families of four divers who lost their lives a year ago, after they were sucked into a 30-inch pipeline, returned to the scene of the accident at sea, to say prayers and honour them.

Dressed in black, the families and friends gathered at the San Fernando Yacht Club, from where they boarded four vessels to take them out to the site, close to Bert 6 of Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, in the Gulf of Paria, around the same time as the incident took place on February 25, 2022.

Before boarding the vessel, which  carried a banner bearing the names of the four – Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry and Fyzal Kurban – with the words, “We can’t breathe,” the families raised their hands with closed fists shouting, “Justice.”

Paria offered support and condolences to the families on the anniversary date of the tragic incident, but with restricted access under the watchful eye of the police and the coast guard.

Lone survivor Christopher Boodram made the journey to the yacht club with his wife Candy and their three children, but opted to stay on land.

Families and friends of four divers, Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar and Yusuf Henry, during a memorial service near Berth 6 in the Gulf of Paria on Saturday. – Marvin Hamilton

“I am not prepared to return. Every time I see that particular area, I get instant flashback,” he said as his wife spoke of the strain the incident has put on their marriage and family life. She said they were holding strong, trying to remove the guilt that has plagued him since that horrific moment.

He turned to his wife and kissed her on the cheek, thanking her for her support.

Vanessa Kussie, widow of Rishi Nagassar, told Newsday how difficult it was to wake up on Saturday.

“This morning was not a good morning. All the memories came rushing back like it was yesterday. It was sad. We went to his graveside, placed flowers and a banner.”

Amidst tears she constantly wiped with a scarf, she and her sons placed flowers in the sea, including a white flower, with a heart-shaped photo of her late husband and children’s father.

It was the same routine for the other families, who continue to mourn.

A commission of enquiry (COE) was ordered into the deaths of the four divers and a report from Jerome Lynch, KC, who chaired the enquiry, is being awaited. The families said they want justice.

A heart-shaped photo of Rishi Nagassar floats in a flower near Berth 6, in the Gulf of Paria on Saturday. – Marvin Hamilton

Boodram said justice to him means, “Prosecution and financial compensation for the families and myself.”

He said if he had been allowed to go back in and save his “brothers” as he had promised them, they would have all been sitting at the yacht club, knocking a glass, talking and laughing about how they survived that incident.

“Those guys should have been here, damaged or break up, whatever, by now they would have been better, we would be having drinks and saying, ‘That was a close one, boy.’

“How could I celebrate? I survive and I can’t celebrate, because I know it is because of my shortcoming they died.”