Infant dies during incident at sea


A coast guard interceptor vessel and larger patrol boat. Photo by Sureash Cholai

AN infant died when a vessel carrying illegal migrants attempted to ram a Coast Guard interceptor off Trinidad’s south coast on Saturday night.

In a statement, the Coast Guard said around midnight the crew of patrol vessel TTS Scarborough detected a vessel crossed the Trinidad and Tobago/Venezuela maritime border into local waters off Trinidad’s south coast.

The Scarborough launched one of its interceptors to pursue the vessel when it tried to evade capture.

All available methods such as the use of loud hailer, ship’s horn, searchlight and flares were used to try to get the suspect vessel to stop. But it continued trying to evade the Scarborough.

The Coast Guard said, in keeping with standard protocols, warning shots were next fired ahead of the suspect vessel. This measure also proved futile. The vessel then engaged in aggressive manoeuvres. It first came into contact with the interceptor and then tried to ram it.

The other vessel was larger than the interceptor and the Coast Guard crew, fearing for their lives and acting in self-defense, fired at the engines of the suspect vessel, in an attempt to bring it to a stop.

It eventually stopped. However, the Coast Guard said, “Only then it was discovered that there were illegal migrants on board who had remained hidden and were therefore not seen before.”

Further checks discovered one adult female illegal migrant who was holding an infant. She indicated that she was bleeding. The suspect vessel was immediately brought alongside the Scarborough and the injured woman was stabilised and transferred to a local health facility.

The Coast Guard said the infant in the woman’s care “was found to be unresponsive.” The other migrants on the vessel will be processed in accordance with immigration and health protocols.

The Coast Guard extended its sincerest condolences to the family and relatives of the infant and wished a speedy recovery to the injured female migrant.

The Coast Guard said it was familar with the catastrophic results that can occur when ramming is used as an evasive technique as interceptors have been rammed by suspect vessels, twice in the recent past.

One incident resulted in the total loss of one interceptor. In the other, there was significant damage to the interceptor’s hull and interior.

“In both incidents, the lives of the interceptor crews were put at risk since they narrowly escaped major injury and death.”

At a PNM virtual meeting in Laventille on Saturday, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the Scarborough and the TTS Port of Spain have tremendously bolstered TT’s border security since they arrived in TT last year. “I am in a position to tell you today, truthfully, those two vessels have impacted substantially and positively on managing the borders of TT.”

Hinds added, “We are a lot better now than we were prior to their arrival and being put into service.”

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