Sharlene Rampersad, T&T Guardian
EnergiesNet.com 01 05 2023
Paria Fuel Trading Company’s general manager was placed in the hot seat yesterday before the Commission of Enquiry into the Paria diving tragedy.
He was accused of doing nothing to sustain the lives of the four men while they were trapped.
Mushtaq Mohammed testified before the commission in a marathon sitting on Wednesday, which lasted from shortly after 10 am to just past 7 pm, when Mohammed’s testimony was concluded.
It was the commission’s first sitting for 2023, as they continue to investigate the cause of the February 25, 2022 tragedy, which led to the deaths of four LMCS divers.
The four men, Kazim Ali Junior, Fyzal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar and Yusuf Henry were conducting underwater maintenance works on Paria’s sealine 36 pipeline when they were sucked into the line by a Delta P situation.
They never made it out of the pipeline alive. A fifth diver, Christopher Boodram was also sucked into the pipe but managed to crawl to safety and was rescued from inside the pipeline some three hours after the accident.
As Mohammed testified on Wednesday, he said several times that Paria did not have the expertise to determine whether LMCS’ proposed method statements were safe. He said Paria hired LMCS as a “competent contractor” as the company had been doing work without incident for Paria for some time.
Questioned by Commission chairman, King’s Counsel, Jerome Lynch, Mohammed said Paria had been responsible for the removal of liquid from the pipeline before the job started.
However, his answers were not so clear cut, as he kept trying to inject, saying he needed to give “context” before giving a negative or positive response to a question.
When asked about the removal of the oil, while Lynch was waiting for a response, Mohammed said, “Keep on going, I’ll come back to that.”
But the chairman was not so easily phased, telling Mohammed he had to provide a clear answer.
“I would have to say our company was responsible for the process and the system by which the liquid would have been removed from the pipeline,” Mohammed replied.
Lynch pressed him further with Mohammed finally conceding that the task was Paria’s responsibility.
When attorney Prakash Ramadhar, who represents several of the divers’ families, was allowed to cross-examine Mohammed, the two seemed to clash from the beginning.
Mohammed continued to seemingly evade giving straight answers and Ramadhar accused him of having a “God-like” complex.
This did not sit well with Paria’s attorney, Gilbert Peterson, who interjected several times, calling on Lynch to restrain Ramadhar.
Lynch allowed Ramadhar to continue after cautioning him.
Ramadhar asked Mohammed how long he estimated the men had to live in the pipeline.
Mohammed said six to 12 hours.
“So let us say by 9 o’clock you would have great anxiety to ensure either a rescue or sustenance?” Ramadhar asked.
Mohammed said and Ramadhar continued, asking whether he wanted “form over substance” in the rescue plan for the men.
After another interjection from Peterson, Ramadhar asked Mohammed what the company had done to sustain the divers while they were trapped.
However, Mohammed remained silent.
When he was asked whether Paria’s systems failed on the day of the accident, he vocalised his objection, saying he did not agree with Ramadhar.
Ramadhar also asked him to rate his performance after this incident but Mohammed declined. He tried to decline to answer again when Ramadhar asked him to rate the performance of the Incident Command Team (ICT) but Lynch told him he needed to answer.
“The IMT team did the best that they could and I am looking at it from the perspective that they prevented what could have been more loss of lives by sending people into that pipeline. Can anyone say that people would have been able to go into that pipeline and conduct that rescue safely?” Mohammed asked.
guardian.co.tt 01 04 2023