Nov 23, 2008 News
A near death experience early Thursday morning has left an ambulance driver still traumatised and calling for disciplinary action to be taken against private individuals who operate an engine-driven pontoon, which transports vehicles across the Berbice River.
According to the driver, Melroy Solomon of Potville, Kwakwani Park, Berbice, he was transporting two patients, two nurses and another civilian to the Linden Hospital on Tuesday morning when the incident occurred.
He said that he arrived at the Berbice end of the boat landing and realised that two of the customarily three pontoon staff were missing, leaving only one to manage the pontoon which was propelled by a large outboard engine.
He said he nonetheless drove onto the pontoon and they made the journey across the river and prepared to drive onto the river bank on the other side.
Solomon said that the lone person manning the pontoon left to pull up what they called the ‘stage’, which is actually a constructed apparatus that enables the ambulance to drive ashore.
He said the man had apparently not angled or connected the ‘stage’ properly to the river bank since the weight of the ambulance sent the pontoon skidding outwards into the river and the stage crashing into the water. The ambulance teetered, the rear section still on the moving pontoon and the nose poised for a death plunge into the river.
Solomon said that in less than a minute as they panicked and screamed inside the ambulance, it dropped into the river and began sinking below the surface. The driver said no amount of screaming evoked any form of help from anyone and the water closed in around them.
He said that as the ambulance sank, a male civilian in a desperate bid to save the lives aboard, managed to pry open the doors, and dragged the nurses and patients to safety. They were assisted by the individual who at time was managing the pontoon operations.
According to the ambulance driver, the pontoon service is operated by Courtney Edwards and Associates, who reside at the Kwakwani Waterfront.
The driver reported that one nurse almost drowned during the rescue and the ambulance had to be pulled out shortly after from the river by a truck transporting lumber to Linden.
Solomon said that the pontoon operators have agreed to repair the ambulance and the police at Kwakwani visited the scene of the accident.
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