When elderly Turkeyen resident Sewsankar was pulled from his burning home early yesterday morning, family members and neighbours who had watched firefighters battle to free the man for nearly half an hour breathed a sigh of a relief.
However, their relief was short-lived as the 76-year-old remigrant died soon after being pulled out of his bathroom by two firefighters, who were heard screaming to their colleagues that he had a pulse. Sewsankar had survived the 2001 al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. He had been on the 34th floor of one of the buildings at the time of the attack.
When Sewsankar’s body was lifted out of the house, villagers started screaming for an ambulance but there was none, which prompted family members to later criticise the response. The man’s body was subsequently placed in the tray of a police pickup truck and taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corpora-tion, where he was officially pronounced dead.
Up to yesterday, the origin of the fire was unknown and the fire service had launched an investigation.
Residents said around 11:45 pm they heard an explosion and saw flames quickly engulfing the Lot 33 Third Street house. The fire caused a temporary power outage.
Around 11:50 pm, five minutes after the blaze started, firefighters responded to a call that a house was on fire in Turkeyen, said Joseph McDonald, the fireman in charge at the scene.
He said the Alberttown, Campbellville and Central fire stations responded, dispatching over 20 firefighters.
Because the house was heavily grilled, Mc Donald said, it prevented them from gaining access to Sewsankar, who was trapped in the bathroom of the two-storey home. He said the grillwork left no space for escape, forcing them to cut to them to reach him. “It was very difficult for us to enter the house. We had to cut the grills in the front windows to enter,” McDonald said.
However, fifteen minutes into fighting the fire and trying to free the man, firefighters ran out of water. Residents lambasted the firemen for not “being prepared,” and what they said was “slow work” to rescue the elderly man.
An angry family member said that there should have been an ambulance at the scene because someone was trapped. “They could have saved that man if they had an ambulance there instead of fetching him like an animal to the hospital. Why didn’t they have an ambulance? They knew someone was trapped inside why they didn’t call for one when they know,” said a relative, Naline Ramcharran, as she broke down into tears.
Sewsankar’s son, Sonny, told Stabroek News that around 9:30 pm Ramcharran, himself and his father ate dinner and sat in their living room. “Around 10:30 we were all tired and I left my father to drop home Naline and another friend. He come with us to the door and said goodbye,” he said.
He said around 11:45 pm he returned home and saw their living room on fire. His father was screaming for help. “I run to the back of the yard and run up the back step but the fire was moving quick and the back started to ketch,” he said.
“He was hollering “Someone help me! Help me! And I tell him go into the bathroom and stay there. I couldn’t save him because by the time I opened the door the smoke was thick and the gas bottle exploded,” he said, before explaining that he yelled for neighbours to help him save his father and the fire service responded quickly.
“They said he was going to make it…they said they got a pulse. That’s what they tell me…. but the water hose couldn’t reach to the back door to stop the fire and save him,” he said, while recalling watching the firefighter lift the man’s body out of the house.
Sewsankar leaves to mourn his four daughters and three sons. He was a resident in the US for the last ten years.
“He left the states to come here and die after all those heart surgeries…? He survived the September 11 attack when those people blow up the World Trade Center to come and die like this?” Sonny lamented.