Compton Sparman, the commanding officer who led the fire combat operation against the violent fire that claimed the lives of 17 Camp Street prisoners testified before the Commission of Inquiry, yesterday.
He told the Commission of Inquiry, (COI) into the incident, yesterday, that he was told that prisoners refused to exit the building at the time of the fire at the Georgetown Prison on March 3, last.
He revealed that this was the response he received from Deputy Director of Prison, Gladwin Samuels, after he inquired about evacuating the inmates on the day of the fire.
“I asked the question if there were systems in place for the persons to come out and he said plain they don’t want to come out…they refused to evacuate,” Sparman said.
As the firefighter recalled the chaos and tragedy which surrounded the riot, he noted that March 3 was the second time that the service was called in to extinguished fires at the prison in 48 hours.
Sparman told the Commission that at one point, he felt that his life was at risk not only due to the fire but also the breach at the prison.
“My personal security…I felt threatened simply because if for whatever reason they were to get out of their cells…if the cells were breached we would have been the targets simply because we were the ones extinguishing the fires.”
He said that at one point, there was an exchange between the firefighters and inmates. Sparman said that the men threw items at the firemen, verbally abused and threatened them. He noted that as a result the fire service was forced to go into defence mode. He said that the men stood their ground and fought the blaze until it was extinguished.
However, Sparman said what bothered him most was the behaviour of the prisoners; he wondered why they wanted to stay in the fire.
“The scene was very traumatic…I wish it had never occurred; it was one of confusion, one of chaos,” the fireman declared. Sparman is the first of the joint services officials to testify in the COI established into the March 3, prison disturbance.
The COI was ordered by President David Granger following one of the deadliest riots to ever take place within the local prisons.
The President appointed Justice James Patterson, Merle Mendonca and retired Director of Prisons, Dale Erskine as Commissioners to oversee the work.
The panel is expected to investigate, examine and report on the causes, circumstances and conditions that led to the disturbances on the morning of March 3, 2016, that resulted in the death of prisoners and any other subsequent disturbances at the Camp Street Prisons; the nature of all injuries sustained by the Prisoners, and any other subsequent disturbances.
The government recently granted a two-month extension to the COI established to inquire into the deadly fire. The extension was to accommodate the pertinent persons whose names were supplied to the Commission.
Among these are the inmates who were housed at Capital ‘A’ ‘B’, ‘C’ and even the condemned division of the Camp Street Prisons at the time of the fire, Prison officials and those from the Fire Department. According to the rules of procedure, the Commission was expected to render its report, findings and recommendations to the Minister of Public Security.
Stakeholders whose views will be considered by the Commission may include staff of the Prisons and their representative unions, members of the Judiciary, prisoners accommodated within the Camp Street facility, functionaries in the Ministries of Public Health and Social Protection and any other stakeholder whose input would be deemed appropriate.
The Inquiry is being conducted in the Conference Room of the Department of Public Service, Ministry of the Presidency, 164 Waterloo Street, South Cummingsburg, and can be held in such other places as the Chairman may determine.
Additionally, the Inquiry is held in public, with reservation of the Commissioners to exclude any person/s deemed unfit for the due conduct of the Inquiry, the preservation of Order, or for any other reason.
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