“Ma, ah going an dead,” cried a traumatised 12-year-old Adeil Cyrus as his body sank deeper into a pit of oil several hundred metres from his Point Fortin home on Wednesday.
His brother Darold Clarke, 14, who had first attempted to rescue him, was also sinking in the pit when their stepfather Kenneth Small, 64, rushed to save them. He too got stuck and with daylight fading, it took a valiant effort from villagers, Point Fortin fire officers, Atlantic’s Emergency Response Team and Heritage Petroleum workers to rescue the family from certain death.
According to reports, Adeil, Darold and two other boys were flying a kite at the Coronation Park near their home when the thread burst and it landed in the bushes at the back of the Egypt Village Government Primary School, where the boys are students. The area is owned by Heritage Petroleum, which has several pipelines and wells there. Police said around 4.30 pm they responded to a distress call at Techeir Road in Egypt Village. As they walked to the back of the school, over a drain and through tall bushes they came upon the oil pit. Small told them that 10 minutes earlier he received the news that his stepsons were stuck in the oil and while trying to rescue them he too became trapped.
At the time, villagers had already cut down a tree and threw tyres into the pit for the victims the grab on to but it was not enough. It was then SSO Sanchez and his team of fire officers stepped in and with the assistance of the others, Cyrus, Clarke and Small were pulled out and taken to the Area Hospital, Point Fortin. They were eventually transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital where they were treated and warded in a stable condition.
When the Guardian Media team visited yesterday, children were playing in the yard of the primary school. They were totally unaware of the danger a short distance away where their schoolmates had almost perished. When the GML team reached the site of the incident, the ladders were mostly submerged and the tyres and tree trunk remained as a reminder of the rescue mission the day before. Even in the bushes, the news crew experienced the sinking and the gripping pull of the oil.
The boys’ cousin Wayne Huyghue, one of the villagers who assisted in the rescue, said it was Darold and Adeil’s friends who rushed to their mother’s home and alerted the family of their plight. Their mother Fredricka Hodge was told that Adeil fell into the pit and when Darold walked across to help them he too got stuck. Huyghue said when he saw Hodge running he suspected something was wrong and decided to follow.
“When we reached there we saw the two children stuck. We tried to pull them out but we could not pull them out so we called the police and they came with the fire officers, then the ambulance came. We got to take out one of them. There was me, two other fellas and the stepfather. We got to take out the first one but we could not take out the rest at the point in time. Petrotrin people came then,” Huyghue said.
Adeil was taken out first as only his head and right arm was visible. Darold was up to chest height in oil. The villagers had to use a rope and tyres to ensure the boys’ heads remained above the surface.
Huyhgue said that since he was a child the pit had existed and although no one had ever got stuck in it before Wednesday, villagers have lost cows and other animals to it in years gone by. Now realising the danger, he wants Heritage Petroleum to install warning signs and fence the area.
In a media release yesterday, Heritage Petroleum Company said the pit was a naturally occurring oil seep area and after Wednesday’s incident its HSE personnel were dispatched to the scene. The company said in accordance with its corporate social responsibility philosophy, it provided appropriate support and assistance to the affected persons accordingly.