WASA worker’s family must wait for answers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales. –

DESPITE THE completion of an internal report into the death of Kern Etienne, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) worker who was buried alive while repairing a pipeline, his family will have to wait a while longer for answers.

Kern Etienne, 39, was part of a crew repairing a sewer line near Cross Crossing in San Fernando on October 22, 2023 when the incident occurred.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales told the Parliament at Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives the internal investigation is completed but has not yet been submitted to the board.

“The report is being finalised for submission for the consideration of the board of commissioners at its next regular meeting scheduled for January 30, 2024.”

He said the matter is also being investigated by the police.

Gonzales said he stood by the promise he made last year to make the report into the incident available to the public

“I reiterate the assurance given (by) me to this honourable House on November 1, 2023 that the findings of any report received would be made public. And if any negligence is found on the part of WASA, we would allow the chips to fall where they may.”

Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie said, however, he could not promise that the findings of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority and Agency (OSHA) will be made available to the family.

Mc Clashie said the investigation by the agency is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of February.

He told Parliament, “The accident report is expected to be submitted to the chief inspector of the agency for his determination on whether further proceedings ought to be initiated.”

Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudranath Indarsingh asked if the OSHA report would be made public.

However, Mc Clashie said that is not part of the process according to law.

“When reports are completed and they go to the chief inspector and they make a determination, the next place it resides or goes to is the Industrial Court. You can also file a freedom of information, but it is not common practice to make these reports available to the public and it is not my call to so do.”

Asked if he will commit to sharing the report with Etienne’s family, Mc Clashie said he was unable to do so.

“We are operating under an act and the act provides for how these things will be dealt with. I cannot give any personal assurance that what the member is asking for will be done as will be guided by the act.”