Former Guyanese Olympic marathon runner Sewsankar, who died after a fire at his home on Tuesday, was yesterday laid to rest.
The 76-year-old man was pulled out of his bathtub by fire fighters after his Turkeyen home was engulfed in flames, just minutes before midnight.
He was trapped for nearly half an hour, after seeking refuge in his bathtub. Sewsankar filled the tub with water and lay down in it, waiting for someone to rescue him.
He died shortly after he was rescued by two firefighters who cut open the heavily grilled windows of the house to get to him. A post-mortem examination found that smoke inhalation was the cause of death.
Sewsankar had survived the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. He had been on the 34th floor of one of the buildings at the time of the attack. He also survived several heart surgeries in the past.
Fire officials are yet to ascertain the cause of the fire. But some residents blamed it on several bouts of low voltage that occurred earlier that night while another set believed it could have been arson.
Around 11.50 pm, five minutes after the blaze started on Monday, firefighters responded to a call that a house was on fire in Turkeyen. Three fire stations responded to the call, dispatching over 20 firefighters.
The fireman in charge, Joseph Mc Donald, had stated that because the house was heavily grilled, it barred the firemen from gaining access to Sewsankar.
He said the grillwork left no space for escape, forcing them to cut it to reach the elderly man.
Residents lambasted the fire stations for not “being prepared,” and what they said was “slow work” to rescue the elderly man. Angry relatives lamented that an ambulance should have been dispatched to the scene because someone was trapped and could have been seriously injured. One relative complained that he should not have been transported in the back of a police van.
Sewsankar’s son, Sonny told Stabroek News that around 11.45 pm he returned home and saw their living room on fire. And 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.
Sonny said he yelled for neighbours to help him save his father while instructing him to fill the tub with water and lie in it until someone rescued him.
When Sewsankar’s body was lifted out of the house, villagers started screaming for an ambulance but there was no ambulance. He was placed in the tray of a police pickup truck and taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation where he was pronounced dead.