-four missing, one hospitalised
His body blistered by spilled gasoline, fisherman Ganeshwar Reddy yesterday recounted how he swallowed salt water while clinging to a five-gallon bottle before being rescued after 24 agonising hours in the Essequibo River.
The Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara fisherman told his harrowing story from a bed at the Suddie Hospital, Essequibo Coast, even as the Joint Services, aided by civilians and Maritime officials, continued to search for four other men who went missing on Saturday night after their vessel capsized in rough waters off the Suddie Coast.
The mishap occurred when the crew was heading to the Pomeroon with an additional speedboat engine to render assistance to one of the fishing crews that was attacked and robbed by pirates in an attack blitz on the Pomeroon River.
Still missing and feared dead are Shafeek Khan called ‘Baby’; Damodar Khemraj, 33, called ‘Rackoo’; his cousin, Kumar Narine, 43, all of Strathspey, East Coast Demerara and Richard Smith, 38, of Da Silva Street, Kitty.
Khemraj is a taxi driver while Smith works with the owner of the ill-fated boat. A police release issued yesterday did not identify Smith among the missing men. Kaieteur News understands that the owner of the boat informed ranks at the Ruimveldt Police Station of Smith’s disappearance yesterday.
Kaieteur News understands that police yesterday retrieved a box containing some $100,000 and boat equipment which had floated up on the Suddie Beach.
Singing his praises to God, Ganeshwar Reddy, called ‘Smallie,’ admitted that he had all but given up hope after so many hours in the water.
Reddy said he cannot eat, due to the amount of salt water that he had swallowed.
He was scheduled to be transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital, sometime later on Monday night.
Reddy explained that he and the four other men had gone to rescue the fishermen who were left stranded after being attacked by pirates. Kaieteur News understands that they were contacted by one of the victims who instructed them to take a 48 horsepower engine and five gallons of gasoline to assist the crew.
The father of four said that they ventured to the Essequibo Coast, at around 17:00 hrs on Saturday, after leaving from the Meadowbank Wharf.
But when they were about 12 miles from Suddie their boat encountered rough waters. The waves battered the boat and it eventually capsized.
But even before this happened, Reddy said he made a decision to jump overboard, while holding onto a five gallon bottle to keep him afloat.
Reddy estimated that he floated for some 24 hours, while clutching to his makeshift lifebuoy and swallowing salt water.
He also sustained burns to his stomach and side after gasoline seeped out of the five gallon bottle he was clutching.
By Sunday, the weakened fisherman said he was beginning to give up. But then, in the vicinity of Jibb, Essequibo, he decided to call for help one last time.
His cries attracted residents in the area who pulled Reddy ashore.
Meanwhile, there were somber scenes at the homes of the four other men.
Mumtaz Khan, the wife of Shafeek Khan, told Kaieteur News that her husband had been a fisherman for most of his life, and operates a fish stall at the Stabroek Market.
Khan recalled that her husband left their Strathspey home at around 03:00 hrs. That afternoon, she was informed by a relative that her spouse had gone to carry a boat engine to the Meadowbank Wharf.
The woman said that she learned of the mishap on Sunday night. Shafeek Khan has two daughters, aged 14 and five.
And Kumar Singh’s sister, Daywattie Narine, said that ‘Smallie’ (Reddy) contacted her brother on Friday and informed her sibling that a relative of Reddy’s had been attacked by pirates. ‘Smallie’ reportedly asked Singh to accompany him.
However, she said that she was not informed that her brother had gone to Suddie.
It was not until Sunday that she received word of the mishap.
The missing man has two sons, aged 21 and 18.
Damodar Khemraj’s reputed wife, Sabrina Arjoon, told Kaieteur News that on Saturday, Khemraj informed her that he was going to take an engine to the Meadowbank Wharf.
“When I call him at around three (pm.) he tell me that he putting the engine in the boat.” However, when she attempted to call him later she got no response.
Khemraj’s mother said that her son had informed her that the people (fishermen) who get “ransom” (attacked by pirates) wanted him to take a boat engine to the Meadowbank Wharf. “From then we call, call and we not getting on to him.”
The mother said that she is puzzled as to why her son, who is a taxi driver, would have accompanied the fishermen to Suddie.
She said that her son’s car is still “parked up on the wharf.”
Meanwhile, Wendy Deroche, a sister of Richard Smith, visited Kaieteur News late yesterday evening accompanied by Calford King, the owner of the ill-fated vessel.
According to Mr. King, Shafeek Khan, called ‘Baby’, and informed King about the pirate attack and asked to borrow King’s boat.
He said that the men, accompanied by his employee, Richard Smith, left for the wharf at around 17:00 hrs.
King said that he attempted to contact the men on Sunday by phone but got no answer. But on Sunday night, a friend who works at the Meadowbank Wharf informed him that the boat had capsized.
Richard Smith is survived by his 13-year-old son and a daughter, aged 14.
Between Friday and Saturday, authorities have reported 15 fishing boats were attacked and robbed by pirates just off the Pomeroon River, in Region Two.
The fishermen were badly beaten and in some cases locked in their boats.
Government yesterday said that all of the fishermen, said to be numbering around 19, have been accounted for and that law officials and others are stepping up security.
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