Cargo boat mishap…
Relatives of 67-year-old Gerald Fraser are expressing suspicion at what they claim are conflicting reports about the circumstances that led to the experienced seaman being the only casualty of Friday’s cargo boat mishap.
Fraser, the vessel’s cook, was reportedly trapped in the 65-foot vessel when it capsized in the Demerara River shortly after leaving the Muneshwer’s Wharf.
Relatives yesterday told Kaieteur News that they are puzzled by some of the things they are being told. Relatives said that they were initially told that Fraser ran back inside for a “bag” and was trapped in the vessel.
But Fraser’s niece, Sharon Pickett, told Kaieteur News that this report was worrying. Pickett said that just one hour before the incident happened, Fraser was shopping at the Stabroek Market. It was explained that Fraser was initially told that the vessel would have been leaving at midnight, but he received a call saying that the vessel was leaving at 18:00 hrs.
“They called him and said that they were leaving earlier so he was hurrying to buy groceries for the vessel,” Pickett told Kaieteur News.
According to the niece, the only bags her uncle had with him were the groceries he bought and it’s “highly unlikely” that he would run back inside the listing vessel for that.
Pickett said that relatives were also told that Fraser had made it off of the vessel. According to the woman, relatives were told that Fraser and the captain were helping another crewmember who couldn’t swim when he disappeared.
“My uncle worked on ships for over 35 years and he was an excellent swimmer so again, I’m not believing that,” the niece said.
So far the woman said that the owner of the vessel has not really communicated with relatives. Pickett said that they called the owner Vijay Sankar on Saturday and he had promised to return the call but hasn’t done so.
Fraser’s relatives said that they are also upset over the fact that the cargo boat’s owner was allegedly allowed to remove the vessel. As of yesterday afternoon the vessel was directly behind the Stabroek Market stelling. However Sankar, in a brief telephone interview denied moving the vessel. The man said that he is sure that the Miss Ellisa was not overloaded. He told Kaieteur News that he is yet to decide on compensation.
Relatives are expected to meet with Minister Benn at 08:30hrs today.
Minutes before the Miss Ellisa capsized on Friday, Fraser had expressed concern that the cargo vessel was over-laden. He was also concerned about the apparent haste to reach their destination; his wife had told Kaieteur News.
Divers who scoured the vessel on Saturday failed to locate the missing man, and it has been suggested that his body is still trapped in some inaccessible section of the craft or that it floated away. Minister of Public Works and Transport, Robeson Benn, on Saturday told Kaieteur News yesterday that efforts will be made within a few days to tow the vessel closer to land.
Fraser’s spouse, Jean Thompson, had told Kaieteur News that she last saw her husband around 08:00 hrs on Friday, when he left home to board the Miss Ellisa. She said that her husband had expected that the vessel would have departed at midnight. However, he then called around 17:30 hrs to inform her that they were departing.
“He call and say that the people change their mind and that they leaving. He said ‘I don’t know why they hurry to go right now. The back of the boat is down (low in the water) and it (the vessel) overloaded.
He say ‘you hear the engine?’ and I say yes. He said ‘you know I love you’, and I say ‘yes, I will pray for you.’”
Ms. Thompson said that shortly after, Fraser’s son called to inform her that the vessel her husband was on had capsized. “When I call, the phone go to voice-mail.”
Fraser’s wife alleged that on the previous voyage to Trinidad, the seaman had also complained of overloading and of what he perceived to be their haste to reach their destination.
Minister Benn said that information suggests that the vessel began listing “by the first buoy.” “They tried to shift the cargo and the listing became more pronounced, and they decided to return to Muneshwer’s Wharf, and when they tried to make the turn (back to the wharf) the vessel capsized and this happened quickly.” According to Benn, the ‘water taxis’ and the Harbour Master responded, followed by the Coast Guard. “The water taxis took the crew off the vessel and they were transferred to the Maritime boats.”
Minister Benn dismissed suggestions that Da Silva could have been rescued had divers been brought to the scene promptly. The captain of the vessel, St. Vincent national, Justin Bynoe, said that he realized as soon as he departed the wharf that the ship started to lean and was taking in water. He said that he decided that he was no longer going out to sea and was preparing to return to the wharf to adjust the cargo. That is when he said the boat started to take in water from the starboard side. “She started to take in water from the side and she kept going and never turned back.” Bynoe said that apart from himself and the missing cook, Ronald Saroop; first mate, Deodat; Chief Engineer, Victor Christopher; second engineer, Anthony Bowen and Sahadeo Baldeo were on board.
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