Rescue firm on Paria tragedy: We were not trained for underwater rescue

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, and commissioner Gregory Wilson hold up a diver’s safety harness at the commission of enquiry into the Paria diving tragedy at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, on Monday. – ROGER JACOB

EASTERN Emergency Response Services Ltd (EERESL) chief of operations Andy Johnson said the company’s personnel were not trained to do underwater rescues.

He made this statement an evidentiary hearing held by the Paria Commission of Enquiry (CoE), Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre on Monday.

Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were doing routine maintenance on a 30-inch pipeline at Berth 6, belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd,t Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25, 2022, when they were sucked into the pipeline. Only Boodram survived.

Responding to questions from Paria CoE lead counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, Johnson said he was informed by Paria that four men were trapped in a pipe.

But he was not told that the pipe was underwater.

While EERSL personnel are trained to undertake rescues in confined spaces, Johnson said they were not trained to perform a rescue of people trapped in an underwater pipe.

In response to questions from Seamen Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU) attorney Nyree Alfonso, Johnson said the company had protocols for undertaking rescue operations. One of those was doing an onsite evaluation or dynamic risk assessment.

He said that was done because “during the times of the incident, there are changes taking place.”

CoE chairman Jerome Lynch KC told attorney Prakash Ramadhar he was being unfair to ask Johnson about the amount of air that the four divers could have had in the pipeline when they were sucked in.

Referring to Johnson’s testimony, Lynch told Ramadhar that Johnson indicated he was not a diving expert.

Later in the hearing, Offshore Technologies Solutions Ltd executive director Antonio Donawa said scuba gear was not appropriate gear to be used for working on an underwater pipeline.

He suggested the use of commerical diving equipment and air supplies were more appropriate.

Donawa also disagreed with views expressed in previous hearings that there was no risk of a Delta P situation after Boodram was rescued from the pipeline.

Delta P is defined as a potential diving hazard in which there is water movement from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure.