NEW AMSTERDAM, BERBICE – It has been exactly one year since proprietor, Ivor Persaud, his 60-year old wife, Parbattie Persaud and their grandchildren, eight-year-old, Mellissa Persaud and five- year- old, Arman Persaud, perished in a mystery blaze that gutted the famous Persaud’s Funeral Home in New Amsterdam.
Over the weekend, the children’s mother, Mrs. Sherry Persaud said answers were never given by those in authority, and an official from the New Amsterdam Fire Department has told her that the investigation was complete.
“He told me if I needed any information I must go the Guyana Fire Service Head Quarters in Georgetown. Now my question is, if the fire happened here in Berbice why must we go to Georgetown and why couldn’t they give us a report on their findings or the state of the investigation?
We want answers; we are the ones who lost our relatives.”
“It still feels like it was yesterday they were taken from me,” the mother of the two children said.
“I look around and see so many things to remind me of them all and wonder why this happened to my loved ones.”
Sherry Persaud lives less than 100 yards from where the tragedy occurred, “Each time I open the door and look across I see the spot that the house was on. It is so empty and not having them around is so quiet and different. They were two vibrant kids, very attached and very close to their grandparents. They spent every possible moment they could with their grandparents.”
According to her, her husband, Anil Persaud is trying to cope with the situation and they both are aware it is something they must live with.
Surviving Christmas without them was beyond anything they had visualised, “This was the first Christmas since the tragedy and it was the hardest thing without them. Christmas was the biggest thing around this house; we would go all out for the children to have a splendid time. Christmas (2009) was a sad day for us. Nothing was the same.”
Melissa was a grade three student at the St. Therese’s Primary School in New Amsterdam while her brother Armand was in level two at the St. Mary’s Nursery School.
As fate would have it, a few weeks before the tragedy, Arman’s class visited the New Amsterdam Fire Service.
“That Christmas (2008) we bought a fire engine that made the noise just like the real one for him and it was his favourite toy. He couldn’t part with it and he died less than a month after he received it – January 24th 2009. I could never forget the look on his little face when he got that fire truck.”
Mellissa parents presented her with a toy kitchen set and her grandmother gave her a stove set.
“On Christmas day after they opened their presents here, at home, they couldn’t wait to run across to their grandparents’ home to show off what they got. Mellissa played house with me and her grandmother using the same complete kitchen set we gave her. They died less than a month later.”
Sherry said she was not able to part with any of their belongings, “I can’t bear to part with their stuff, parting with their stuff is like if you are letting go of them. I don’t think I would want that. Everything in the room is still the same like it was when they were alive.”
To those who may be experiencing the pain of losing a loved one, Sherry offered some advice, “Whenever it feels that bad and you are at your worst, don’t give up just get up and go out. Do not ever let depression overcome you.”
All in all, they made it through the trying period with the help of those around them, “We would like to thank all the members of our family, our friends as well as members of the public for all the support they have given us throughout the last 12 months since we lost out four loved ones.”
She believes that it was inadequacies on the part of the Guyana Fire Service and the Guyana Water Inc. that led to the demise of the Persauds, “The night of the fire if the Guyana Fire Service was well prepared they could have saved the kids and my in-laws. The funny thing is that they came…all the hoses had holes. This is their job why are they not prepared to do it? They need a whole lot of training and equipment. If they had asbestos suits, at least somebody could have ran up and tried to save them. If they have these pieces of equipment why didn’t they use them?”
She acknowledged that the home was heavily secured but this, she said, should have been no reason for them to depart life in that manner, “If the windows were heavily grilled couldn’t they (fire fighters) have used an axe or a sledge hammer, an electrical saw or some other kind of equipment to break the walls down and get them out?”
Mrs. Persaud believes that better communication skills could have made a difference, “They do not have an investigator or such personnel who could have come to us during the fire to ask us questions so that we could have assisted them…questions like where my family was and so on. We know the setting of the house.”
Another thing that still upsets her is the manner they were treated on the day of the fire, “In all the confusion, the police and fire fighters still have to know how to treat people. There were victims in the fire, although they were victims, they were our loved ones. On to the end we prayed and still had hope. The way you break the news to a family, you should be trained to do that. You don’t just blurt it out. Another thing is that the police ranks and firemen who were out there, they have to know how to treat people. My husband wanted to go up to the house…the way they handled him was uncalled for. You do not treat people like that… respect people, respect the victims.”
Back in January 2009, some persons believed that arson may have been the root cause.
When asked to comment on this, she responded, “That’s such a hard question…we never had any problems with anybody. A fire of that magnitude…one building, four persons and they couldn’t save anybody? Only God knows what really happened that night.”
Today the wailing of a siren sends chills up her spine, “Every time I hear it, I am on edge and listen to hear where it is going if it would stop around here. I am so much more aware of all these sounds.”
Meanwhile, Chief Fire Officer, Marlon Gentle, said the cause of the fire could not be determined.
The Fire Department was working on two theories; one was the fact that there was an explosion and the other a power issue. There were no eye witnesses and the explosion was when a gas cylinder blew up.
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