Paria tragedy inquiry seeks info

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Paria Fuel Trading company’s Berth Six in the Gulf of Paria where four divers lost their lives while conducting maintenace work on an oil pipeline on February 25. – Lincoln Holder

ANYONE with information on the drowning deaths of four divers on February 25 at a Pointe-a-Pierre facility owned by Paria Fuel Trading Company is invited to submit such details to the commission of enquiry (CoE) into the tragedy, said the commission in a paid press advert on Friday.

Five men – Christopher Boodram, Kazim Ali, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry and Rishi Nagassar – were working on a 30-inch pipeline but were sucked in, with only Boodram surviving. Relatives of the men bitterly complained of not being allowed to try to rescue the remaining four, by Paria and Coast Guard officials who said experts on site had warned a rescue was too risky. Energy Minister Stuart Young had initially announced an ordinary inquiry into the tragedy likely under the authority of his ministry and the Petroleum Act but he later on upgraded it to a CoE.

The CoE will be chaired by Jerome Lynch, QC, (who replaced retired Justice Dennis Morrison, QC, who stepped down for personal reasons) and subsea specialist Gregory Wilson, with lead counsel being Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC.

The advert said the CoE was appointed by Acting President of the Republic Christine Kangaloo under the Commissions of Enquiry Act to examine all of the circumstances leading to the tragedy at Berth Six, Pointe-a-Pierre. “In this regard members of the public are invited to submit written statements and any supporting documents relevant to the commission’s terms of reference (TORs).

The advert listed the TORs, firstly “the circumstances which led to the tragic incidents” which led to the deaths of the four men. The TORs also included work proposals by Paria and subcontractor LMCS (before the tragedy); their policies, procedures and practices; their contingency plans and safeguards; and the adequacy of the equipment of LMCS.

The probe must also “identify whether by any act or omission, any identified or unidentified person or entity directly or indirectly caused loss of life.”

The second section of the TORs said the CoE must “make findings, observations and recommendations arising out of its deliberations as may be deemed appropriate.”

This includes whether any person/entity breached their duty, whether there are any grounds for criminals proceedings against persons/entities, and whether any such proceedings should be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The CoE must also identify the best practices, policies and procedures to be used in these types of maintenance exercises, and which of these should be implemented to prevent any recurrence of the tragic incident of last February.

Written statements and copies of relevant documents should be sent to the commission’s secretary, Sarah Sinanan, at SAPA, Todd Street, San Fernando (telephone 709-5477, e-mail [email protected]). The closing date for submissions August 12 at 4 pm.

“The commission will examine the information submitted and will make a decision as to whether the person submitting the information will be required to give evidence before the commission.

“The commission is prepared to sit some evenings to ensure the participation of the families of the divers and members of the public.” The commission is due to begin in August.

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