Dec 21, 2012 News
By Michael Jordan and Yannason Duncan
A passenger from the Region Two vessel that was involved in Tuesday’s deadly crash said yesterday that she heard an official shout: “Captain look out, there’s a boat coming!” seconds before the two boats collided.
The passenger said that the captain, known as ‘Buddy’, swerved and the other boat struck the side of the vessel she was in before “pelting up in the air and going into the bushes.”
The woman said she believes that she and the other passengers would also have perished had the boats collided head-on.
The passenger’s account appears to confirm accounts given by the captain of the Region Two vessel and Regional Chairman Parmanand Persaud, who both said that the smaller vessel had headed into their path.
The boat captain, who was released on station bail yesterday, stated that the other boat should have been travelling on the other side of the river.
The captain and Region Two Chairman Persaud denied that they left the scene without attempting to assist the victims. Persaud told Kaieteur News that the captain discharged his passengers and went back to help the victims but by then, two other boats had already gone to the scene and reported that all the passengers were dead.
Confirmed dead are boat captain Harrynarine Bhagwandeen; Velda Rodrigues, 50; Shawn Anthony, 14; Rajkumar Singh, 14 and his sister Amerieta Singh, 10; and Vincent Singh, 42.
The lone survivor, Eli Orlando, of Adams Creek, has been admitted to the Suddie Public Hospital. A hospital source said that his condition has improved.
Post mortem examinations performed on Rodrigues and her son revealed that the woman sustained multiple injuries while her son’s spine was broken. All of the other victims, like Rodrigues, suffered multiple injuries
Relatives of some of the victims have alleged that the passengers of the Regional vessel fled the scene without attempting to assist the victims.
Speaking to Kaieteur News yesterday, a passenger from the Regional vessel recalled that they were travelling during a heavy downpour at around 17:30 hrs last Tuesday. They had all discarded their life jackets since they were some ten minutes away from Charity.
“I can remember that rain was pouring real hard… and all of a sudden we hear (Regional official) say ‘Captain look out, there is a boat coming!’ and we saw a boat about ten seconds away from us,” the passenger said.
“We panic and start shouting, and our captain did not get flustered…he pivot for the bush and the boat hit our boat side and pelt up in the air and go in the bush. I told myself that I am dead. We were not wearing life jackets and I don’t know to swim.
“We saw people lying in the water. We went back half-way…but by then another boat came back and they assisted, and they said ‘you go to the police, we going to look after them (the victims).’”
She said that the Region Two vessel was “moving fast” and the boat heading towards them appeared to be speeding. The passenger believes that her captain’s quick response saved his passengers.
“His response was swift, saving 12 lives.”
According to boat captain ‘Buddy’, he was ‘coming from upriver’ in pouring rain. “We were on the right side (of the river) and the other boat was on my side and like he come straight up to me and he pass under my boat bow and end up in the bush. He (the other boat captain) should have been on his right side, but he been on my right side.”
“I put off the passengers and when I go back to see what happen, a boy from another boat say that eight people dead.”According to ‘Buddy’, his passengers advised him to go to the Charity Police Station, which he did. The captain confirmed that the Regional vessel has a 200-horsepower outboard engine, but said that he was going at about “half of the maximum” speed.
And Region Two Chairman Parmanand Persaud also alleged that from all indications, the other boat “ran into” the regional boat.
“The other boat swerved across and the Regional boat ran over it.” He recalled that the smaller boat ended up in some mangroves after the collision.
Refuting reports that they drove away without trying to render assistance, Persaud said the captain discharged his passengers on a river bank, with the intention of going to the aid of the victims. By then, two other boats had gone to the scene. He recounted that a community member went to the area where the crash had occurred. He returned about 30 minutes later to inform them that all the passengers were dead.
“The man came back and said ‘Chairman, you can’t do nothing.”
Officials from the Region Two administration and staffers from the One Laptop Per Family project were returning from the Upper Pomeroon after distributing laptop computers when the tragedy occurred.
It is believed to be one of the worst boat mishaps to have occurred in the Pomeroon River, and appeals are being made for more safety measures to be implemented for speedboat operators.
On Wednesday, President Donald Ramotar and several Government officials expressed condolences to relatives of the victims while promising to assist them.
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