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TTPBA gets SSA helicopters, but no divers
Even as the Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon seemed to have saved the 2017 edition of the T&T Great Race, and 49th overall by committing the support of Strategic Services Agency (SSA) - an arm of the Ministry of National Security - at yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing, doubts remain about the staging of the longest-running offshore powerboat event in the world.
The race was put in doubt on Wednesday when the T&T Power Boat Association (TTPBA) indicated that it did not have SSA support via its helicopter service to follow the event from Trinidad to Tobago. However, speaking to the media at the Diplomatic Centre in Port of Spain yesterday, minister Dillon sought to clarify the confusion by stating: “As far as I’m aware, we look at the Great Race as sort of a national event. The question you may want to ask is whether there was any request of the SSA. However I can tell you as minister of national security, I have instructed the SSA to assist.”
Minister Dillon added: “Because we would want to ensure that this event comes off without, in so far as safety is concerned, we want to be able to at least prevent any incident whatsoever. So as minister of national security I have instructed the SSA to do whatever is required to ensure that the safety requirements are considered.”
However, while a media release late yesterday evening from the TTPBA confirmed that the SSA did in fact eventually pledge its support to the event, there were doubts about whether specialist divers from the T&T Coast Guard would be on board the SSA helicopters.
The release read: “As of this morning (Thursday) we were informed via a phone call from SSA, that a helicopter service would be provided to follow the racers along the Great Race course. As we began to get things in place again and get the Great Race back on track, we then learned that yes a helicopter was being provided but they were not prepared to take the professional divers on board as they have done for the past 12-14 years of the Great Race.”
The statement further explained that these divers are specially trained in rescue techniques along with the SSA helicopter pilots and work together every year to ensure the safety of all racers in the Great Race.
The TTPBA release stated: “To have a helicopter without divers would be like having an ambulance arrive at an accident scene without paramedics. It would be pointless.”
Up to late last evening, the TTPBA was thought to still be attempting to seek clarification on the matter and also continued with its scheduled race briefing last night.