Principals of the company which employed the four divers who perished after being sucked into a 30-inch pipeline at the Pointe-a-Pierre facility of Paria Fuel Trading Company will testify on Monday as the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the diving tragedy resumes after a ten-day break.
Those due to testify on Monday are LMCS head Kazim Ali Snr (father of one victim), LMCS HSE manager Ahmad Ali and LMCS HSE manager Victor Dhillpaul.
For Tuesday to Thursday, other witnesses due to testify are officials from LMCS, Paria and Kenson.
The CoE so far sat for three days in Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, with another day for participants to visit the site of the tragedy.
Divers Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry and Christopher Boodram were sucked into a 30-inch pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd on February 25, reportedly by a vortex caused by a sharp difference in water pressure known as a Delta P. Only Boodram escaped, and gave a heart-rending testimony.
The CoE is chaired by Jerome Lynch, KC, with Ramesh Maharaj, SC, as CoE counsel, Gilbert Peterson, SC, as Paria counsel, with Prakash Ramadhar representing bereaved families and Nyree Alfonso the SWWTU.
At the first sitting Lynch held up a small child’s hula hoop to show the size of pipeline.
Kazim Ali Jnr’s parents, Kazim Ali Snr and Catherine Ali, accepted Maharaj's offer for any participant to step outside for a few minutes.
Viewers then heard voices of the trapped divers, recorded on as GoPro device later recovered.
Subsequently, Boodram said the greatest challenge he had ever faced was keeping everyone calm.
Maharaj read witness statements including Paria manager Collin Piper saying that based on consultations it was too risky for subcontractor LMCS to try to rescue the remaining trapped four men.
The counsel said Piper said Lt Hargreaves of the Coast Guard (TTCG) said the TTCG lacked the equipment, training and aptitude required for a rescue.
Maharaj related witness statements that Paria had told LMCS to stop its rescue efforts and had asked the TTCG to take control of the site.
The second sitting heard an emotive testimony by Boodram, who wept openly at times and was allowed a short break to recover emotionally.
Recalling being sucked into the pipeline, he said, "I was in a state of panic. I was not sure if I was dead. I was not sure if I was alive.
"Inside there was like an unbelievable nightmare. Your eyes burning. Every time you try to open your eyes it burning. Pitch black – you can't see anything.
"Your throat burning. Your ears ringing. Your body sore."
Boodram recalled the men's efforts to save themselves.
The battered men linked up. "We drag and pull, drag and pull." While he escaped, he lamented no rescue efforts for the remaining four men.
He said on his emergence from the pipeline, he never told Paria his colleagues were already dead.
The third hearing heard Paria technical and maintenance manager Michael Wei say Paria had to first determine conditions in the pipeline, as a rescue attempt could put more lives at risk, despite the pleas of friends and relatives to go in to save the trapped men. "You need to know if there were obstructions or hazards. To send someone into the line without knowing that would be reckless."
Wei said Paria advised the TTCG to take control of the site which he said was becoming uncontrollable."
He said, "Paria requested the Coast Guard to assist people from not getting into the pipeline."