Trinidad Gov’t To Appoint Independent Panel To Probe Underwater Tragedy

(CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government on Monday said it would appoint an independent team to probe the circumstances that led to four underwater welders going missing (and now presumed dead) while working on a 36-inch underwater crude oil pipeline in Point–a-Pierre over the weekend.

“This is an unfortunate accident,” said Energy and Energy Industries Minister, Stuart Young, adding that such accidents have taken place around the world involving underwater diving.

“We all know that it is extremely dangerous…our heartfelt condolences, empathy and support go out to all of the members of the families as they go through this difficult time,” Young said, adding that “the government will be directing Paria and LMCS and others to do what is necessary for these families at the end of the day”.

He said following consultation with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, “we have taken a decision that there will be an independent investigation carried out by the Ministry of Energy and Energy industries, but we made it very clear that it will not be carried out by the Ministry of Energy personnel.”

Young said he has already spoken to the executives of the foreign oil companies, BP and Shell that are operating in the island and has “asked both of them for their assistance and to identify personnel from BP and Shell.”

The chairman of the state-owned Paria Fuel Trading Company, Newman George, said the rescue mission to find the four underwater welders has now moved to one of recovery of the bodies.

“The operation has now moved from rescue to recovery,” George said on Sunday night, adding “this has not been an easy decision”.

The four missing divers are – Fyzal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar, Kazim Ali Jr and Yusuf Henry. A fifth diver, Christopher Boodram, was rescued on Friday. He is reported to be in a stable condition at the San Fernando General Hospital.

Paria had said that the five employees of LMSC Ltd, a private contractor, were conducting an underwater maintenance exercise at No 36 Sealine riser, berth six, when “an incident occurred.”

It said it resulted in “the loss of sight” of the five-member team who were being monitored from the shore.

Young told reporters that this investigation into the “tragedy” will be charged with the responsibility “of going in, analysing, what plans were put in place before the job started, what was taking place during this unfortunate and tragic accident.”