TT Gov’t Inquiry Into Divers’ Deaths Suggests Manslaughter Charges Against Company

(AP) – A government inquiry into the deaths of four divers in Trinidad, who became trapped in a pipe while doing maintenance for a state-owned fuel supplier, recommends that prosecutors consider filing corporate manslaughter charges against the company, saying it made “little or no attempt to rescue” them.

The commission of inquiry report criticises Paria Fuel Trading Company’s response to the deaths in February 2022, which angered many in the eastern Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. A fifth diver who survived recounted the ordeal to the commission.

The report accuses the company of preventing a contractor from sending commercial divers to rescue those stuck, and of spending several hours searching open waters despite knowing the divers could be inside the 30-inch (76-centimetre) pipe. It says Paria delayed in seeking cameras as part of the operation and did not consult with commercial divers on site.

“Paria made little or no attempt to rescue, in that they failed to manage and coordinate the resources that were available,” the report says. “The opportunity to rescue the men from the pipe was completely wasted by a degree of inertia that is difficult to comprehend.”

The commission of inquiry says it found “that there are sufficient grounds to conclude that Paria’s negligence could be characterised as gross negligence and consequently criminal.”

Paria did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The report was presented to Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament on Friday.

The Trinidad & Tobago Guardian newspaper quoted a Paria spokeswoman on Sunday as saying the company would not be commenting. The newspaper also quoted legal experts noting that a corporate manslaughter charge equals to a fine and no jail time.

Saddam Hosein, an opposition member in parliament, told a press conference on Sunday that the government must individually prosecute Paria officials and compensate the sole survivor, given the report’s details.

“The negligence of Paria has converted state-owned facilities into a crime scene,” he said.