On day one of the Commission of Enquiry into the deaths of four divers at Paria Fuel Trading’s offshore facility in Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25, chilling information regarding their ordeal has already been disclosed.
The recording of the last conversations between the men, while trapped in a 30-inch pipeline, has revived trauma that many faced in the aftermath of this tragedy.
But it was necessary that it be played.
What was clear from the way they spoke, was that these men were, at that moment, not yet in a desperate panic mode as they tried to locate each other and to help each other out.
From the manner in which they conversed, it was evident that they felt help was either coming or that an escape was possible.
Sadly, neither of these two scenarios materialised and this is exactly why the Commission is meeting today.
Also revealed yesterday were pathologist reports that suggested the men might have been alive for many hours after they were sucked into the pipe, with one of them, Rishi Nagassar, possibly remaining there for as many as three days before he died.
This is as tragic as it gets and once again raises serious questions about the efforts to rescue them.
Yesterday, Counsel to the Commission, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said the contractors for which the divers worked, LMCS, had an initial rescue plan at 3.20 pm on February 25 that involved divers with scuba equipment going to save the four men.
Based on LMCS’ submission, Mr Maharaj said this plan was later revised at 6.20 pm to involve pumping surface air into the pipeline to facilitate the rescue, but he noted that LMCS had also submitted in its evidence that Paria prevented it from implementing the rescue plan on the grounds that it was unsafe.
These claims had been disputed by Paria in March and the company will present its position to the commissioners.
We eagerly await the truth on this matter, as it remains deeply concerning that proof of life assessments and rescue plans failed these men over such an extended period of time.
The Commission is duty-bound to probe well into the depths of Paria’s safety policies and practises to determine if there were response protocols in place for such an accident; what those protocols were; if they were followed; and why they failed in getting the men out alive.
We are glad to hear that Mr Maharaj and the Commission also intend to determine whether criminal proceedings could be launched against any person or entity, and whether such a recommendation should be made to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
This Commission has done well in setting the right tone as it begins public sittings.
These deaths shook the entire nation, and many questions went unanswered as a blame game ensued between Paria and LMCS.
We’re confident that the Commission, as it is currently constituted, is one that will get to the bottom of this matter, and we look forward to those responsible for this tragedy being held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.