Trinidad: 5 Fall Into The Sea

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) – A massive search and rescue operation was under way on Sunday for five of seven crewmen who were on board a cargo vessel travelling from Trinidad to St Vincent and the Grenadines when it overturned in the Caribbean Sea on Saturday afternoon.

Two of the seven were rescued by a passing powerboat and taken to Staubles Bay in Chaguaramas, while up to yesterday evening, the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG), with the assistance of Venezuelan authorities, was hoping to find the other five alive.

Up to last night they had not.

The MV Fair Chance, which is St Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged, capsized approximately five nautical miles north of Monos Island sometime around 3 p.m. on Saturday the TTCG stated in a news release yesterday.

The seamen are from Carriacou, Grenada, and Union Island, a part of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Four of them have been identified as Dexter Chance, Owen Prescott, Quincy Baptiste and Eric Calliste. Two others were identified only as “Devon” and “Parrot”, while an identity for the seventh man was not released up to last night.

It was also not confirmed which two of the seven were rescued. However, Chance, the captain of the vessel, was still missing last night.

After the vessel overturned, the two rescued men managed to make their way out of the water and onto its underside, which was facing up, before help arrived.

Search and rescue

Information reaching the Express is that the vessel had earlier departed the Caricom Port in Port of Spain loaded with tons of steel products en route to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Officials at the port said it was believed the vessel may have been overloaded and the extra weight caused it to “shift” upon entering the choppy North Coast waters, ultimately resulting in the vessel overturning.

Customs and Excise is required to properly inspect vessels before they leave port.

In its release, the TTCG stated: “The vessel named Fair Chance, which is from St Vincent and the Grenadines, encountered rough North Coast seas and subsequently overturned due to a shift of the cargo on board. Two of the seven people on board were rescued by a passing vessel and taken to Staubles Bay for medical treatment.”

The report of the overturned vessel was received around 3.40 p.m., it stated.

In an interview on i95.5FM yesterday, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the TTCG was putting forward its best effort to find the men alive.

“The Coast Guard of Trinidad and Tobago immediately got involved in a search and rescue operation and it is confirmed that two persons of the reported seven who were on board have been found and made safe. The others have not yet been found but the operation continues.

“…Overnight the vessel was moving in the waters. It shifted towards the Venezuelan jurisdiction (so) contact was made with the Venezuelan authorities and they have played their part because we all have obligations in terms of search and rescue. I am aware from the latest report that I have is that the Coast Guard of Trinidad and Tobago is mustering all the help and support that we need,” said Hinds.

Sitting and waiting

Member of Parliament for Southern Grenadines Terrance Ollivierre said the Union Island community was in mourning and heartbroken having heard of the tragic incident.

“I spoke to the wife of the captain so far and she is very distraught as to what has happened and quite a number of persons in St Vincent and the Grenadines are in disbelief,” said Ollivierre.

“I was told that as the boat rolled, the two persons who survived were able to get off the boat and subsequently the boat overturned and they were sitting at the top of it and they were rescued by a powerboat that was coming from Tobago Cays (in the Grenadines) and they were handed over to Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.

“This is really a tragic situation and, as I said, the Grenadines and especially the people of Union Island, the whole mood on the island has changed so everybody is just sitting and waiting for what information they can gather from what has happened,” Ollivierre added.