Widow of deceased diver in Paria tragedy: Painful Father’s Day without Rishi

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE PHOTO: Vanessa Kussie, wife of Rishi Nagassar, weeps over his casket at his funeral, Richmond Stret, Perseverance village, Couva, on March 10. –

FATHER’s day without her husband Rishi Nagassar, one of the four divers who died in the February 25 Paria tragedy, proved to be most painful for his wife Vanessa Kussie and their three children.

Instead of being at their home entertaining family and friends like they normally do, Kussie spent Father’s Day in Fyzabad where she helped carry a huge placard headlined, “We can’t breathe,” bearing the photographs of the five divers, including the lone survivor, Christopher Boodram.

Kussie wept quietly at Avocat Junction before joining the Labour Day march to Fyzabad. She said she chose to be there, “because it is Father’s Day.”

It is her first Father’s Day without her husband who died after he and four other divers, Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jr, Yusuf Henry and Christopher Boodram were sucked into a 30-inch Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd underwater crude oil pipeline, Pointe-a-Pierre, four months ago. The five were employed with LMCS which was contracted to do maintenance work on the pipeline for Paria.

Boodram survived the tragedy. The Prime Minister has announced a commission of enquiry (CoE) to investigate the circumstances in which the divers died as there are reports the tragedy could have been avoided.

The commission, appointed on April 22 and chaired by former head of Jamaica’s Appeal Court Justice Cecil Dennis Morrison QC, is in its pre-hearing stage. Local sub sea specialist Gregory Wilson is the other member of the two-person commission and former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is its lead counsel.

On Sunday, Kussie said she used the Labour Day platform in the hope of getting justice for her husband and the families of the other victims who are grieving.

“Today is Father’s Day and its very hard for us. We – all the families – feel that we have been forgotten.

“Today would have been another special day. Rishi would have been helping me in the kitchen to prepare for relatives who would have come by later.

“Today would have been a big celebration at home, now we don’t have that. It is the first Father’s Day without him and my home is empty.

“I don’t feel that joy any more. The absence of his presence with me, being around the children, the family, its hard. It’s painful.

“The children would have been with him outside doing the barbeque for later. We are not doing any of that today.”

She said her three-year-old son has been traumatised since his father’s death.

“He does not understand the situation and I don’t know how to explain to him that his father is not coming home.

A poster of four divers who died in an incident while working on the pipleines of the Paria Fuel Trading Company on February 25 is displayed on a truck participating in a Labour Day march held by JTUM in Fyzabad on Sunday. – Lincoln Holder

“He keeps thinking his father is going to come home. He keeps looking outside at the gate waiting to see him.

“This is so hard. Sometimes he cries and keeps calling his daddy. I break down. I don’t know what to do, who to turn to,” she cried.

On the Labour Day platform at Charlie King Junction, president general of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) and the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget said the country must never forget that incident.

He said the four divers who died were human beings who were trapped in a 36-inch pipeline in one of the most gruesome industrial accidents in recent history.

“These four men lost their lives in an industrial accident that was totally preventable.

“Let us be clear, these men did not have to die. If Paria had competent people in its management and the correct HSE standards and procedures were observed, those divers would have been alive today.”

What is worse, Roget said, “is that Paria does not want to accept liability for the criminal negligence by their woefully incompetent management.”

“There is absolutely no other part of the world where such accidents with fatalities occur and where those who are responsible are still on the job whilst an investigation or enquiry is being conducted.

“The current hodgepodge, so-called enquiry at Paria is just a smoke screen and to vindicate those who are responsible for the deaths of these four men.

“We must never let them get away with that. These four divers, Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar and Yusuf Henry were four human beings. Those who are responsible for their deaths must be held to account.

“They must be held to account even if they are the PM’s best friend or his golf partner.”