MARAD advises that charges be brought over Pomeroon River tragedy

The Maritime Administra-tion Department (MARAD) yesterday said that the December 18 Pomeroon River boat accident that claimed six lives was caused by one or both of the captains failing to observe international regulations and it disclosed that it has advised the `G’ Division police to proceed with charges.

In a press release dated December 24 but only disseminated yesterday, MARAD also listed a series of breaches of the collision regulations.

The MARAD statement came 11 days after the tragedy and following repeated attempts by Stabroek News to elicit a comment from it.

Boat captain Harrinarine Bhagwandin and his nephew Vincent Singh, 40, both of Abrams Creek; Velda Rodrigues, 50, and her son Shawn Rodrigues, 14, also of Abrams Creek; and Rajkumar, 14, and his sister, Amerita Singh, 10, of Charity Housing Scheme, Essequibo Coast, died after the boat they were travelling in collided with another boat, owned by the regional administration, in the Pomeroon River. There was only one survivor from  Bhagwandin’s boat and it has been suggested that some of the victims could have been saved if the passengers in the region’s boat had stopped and rendered assistance after the collision.
The region’s boat had around 16 people including the Chairman of the region and employees of the One Laptop per Family Programme.

MARAD’s statement said:

“Firstly, a preliminary investigation was conducted immediately into this most unfortunate accident and the facts are that on the day of the accident, both vessels were travelling close to the left bank of the river on a (similar) course when they collided.

“The collision was caused by one or both Captains of the vessels having failed to observe the international regulation for preventing collision at sea and the Guyana shipping act of 1998 Sect 225 (1).

“Secondly, our investigation revealed that at the time of the collision it was raining but that did not obscure the Captains’ visibility.

“There were a number of breaches which were found to be in violation of the Collision Regulations such as:
·  Rule 5 – Failing to maintain a proper look out at all times.

·  Rule 6 – Proceeding at a safe speed so as to take proper and effective action to avoid collision.

·  Rule 14 – Failing to alter the vessel’s course to starboard

·  Failing to render assistance to operator and passengers.

“Prior to this incident, Officials from the Maritime Administration Department paid visits and held awareness seminars with operators and passengers in Pomeroon, conducted boat inspections, and issued licences to operators.

“The Administration also distributed life jackets to some residents in Charity and Moruca areas.

“Periodic visits have been made by representatives from MARAD who are currently seeking to upgrade those vessels which transport passengers in that Region and to hold training sessions for boat operators.

“Although MARAD officials encountered some resistance from residents residing in the Pomeroon areas, we remain committed to our responsibility of ensuring safe operational practices as we strive to minimize maritime accidents on our waterways.

“By way of letter dated December 20, 2012, MARAD has advised the Commander ‘G’ Division to commence instituting certain charges in keeping with the requisite regulations relative to this incident.

“Finally, there is an ongoing effort to make boat operators more aware of safety requirements and to improve on the quality of their services to the travelling public.”

Only one of the captains is alive and he is likely to face charges including failing to render assistance to the other boat operator and passengers.  After the collision, the region’s boat left the scene and returned after letting its passengers off some distance away.

The survivor, a boy, was rescued by relatives of the deceased.

Residents of the region were incensed that the region’s boat left the scene immediately after the collision without providing help.

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