Teen sailor in barge mishap found alive

-drifted at sea for two days

The young man, who worked on board the ill-fated MV Crissan-V as a sailor was found walking by a search party along the Kamwatta Beach, NWD around 10 am yesterday.

Still missing last evening were 26–year-old Julian Garraway of Meten-Meer-Zorg, West Coast Demerara (WCD) and the captain and owner of the ill-fated vessel, John Vansluytman, said to be in his early 60s.

Back home: Survivor Deochand Massidas and his mother, Seeranie Singh at their Zeelugt, West Coast Demerara home last evening.

On Saturday, 24-year old Elbert Jack Jr was found floating in the waters in the vicinity of Waini Point and was yesterday reunited with his family in the city. He and Massidas had been swimming together but had become separated and were unsure of each other’s fate until yesterday.

Last evening during an emotional reunion with close friends and family members, 17-year old Massidas, called ‘Amrit’ and `Speedy’, recounted the ordeal as he gazed at the walls of his Zeelugt, WCD home. He said that he had been working on the vessel “with the big man John (Vansluytman) for about a month in this year and two months late last year”.

The composed teenager recalled leaving the Buckhall area on the Essequibo River, around 2pm for Port Kaituma on Wednesday and according to him, the vessel had been “giving `lil problems from then but it start get worse as we been out”. He said that along the way, some 3 hours later, the two pumps on board the vessel started to malfunction and he said that he and the other crewmembers worked feverishly to prevent water from entering the boat.

He said, “the boat start tekking in more water and night time, like about 9-10 o’clock captain seh we have to get the other pump from the pontoon”. He said that the ropes connecting the two vessels were then pulled together in order for the crew to retrieve the pump from the pontoon.

Julian Garraway

“The boat stern then get hit by the pontoon and it rip way the side (of the ship) and we had to throw the pump in the ship so that water could bail out”, the young man recalled. Confusion reigned at this point and he noted that he was on the vessel at the time while other stood on the barge. He noted that several persons who were with him then began to clamber onto the ropes leading to the barge since the MV Crissan-V started to sink rapidly.

He said that within a matter of minutes the vessel started to sink and as the seconds ticked by he clung to a life ring and plunged overboard. “Me been in the water and the men them on the pontoon been throw the rope couple times but it couldna reach and water been rough”, he recounted as a relative cried in relief at his being found.

Elbert Jack Jr

Massidas said that the men on board the pontoon were forced to cut the rope since the vessel was pulling it into the waters and he noted that at this point he screamed and called out but no one could have seen him and minutes after, the vessel sank. He said that less than 30 minutes later he heard another man calling out for help and he later swam towards the voice. “Me had a light and me shine it and see he floating on a ring”, he recalled.

Two life rings
The man turned out to be Egbert Jack Jr and the two young men then decided to tie the two life rings together and floated for the remainder of Wednesday night. He said that all day Thursday they floated on the high seas and he noted that he did not drink the sea water even though he was tempted to.

He said that most of the time he kept talking with Jack Jr as they tried desperately to swim to the green shoreline which appeared in the distance on Friday morning. He said they lay flat on their stomachs on the life rings and according to him, Jack Jr wanted to sleep for most of the ordeal since he became tired and was cramping. He said that they saw boats in the distance and waved but no one saw them.

“Friday night bout midnight he loose off and me couldna find he no more and me continue swimming because me just wanted to reach to shore”, he recalled. The young man stated that Saturday morning he drew closer to the shoreline and he touched land sometime around lunchtime. “I take a 5 minute break and start walking, it had coconut tree and so but no house so I keep walking”, Massidas recalled calmly.

He said that he slept the night on the sandy beach off the community of Kamwatta and yesterday morning he continued walking along the beach. He said that around 9 am, he saw a boat and waved to the men who later rescued him. He was taken to Pomeroon Mouth where the men handed him over to the Coastguard. He was then taken to the Charity Hospital where he was treated and released.

His mother, who was all smiles at their home, told this newspaper that she was not aware that her son was involved in the incident until Friday.  “Only Friday me reading papers and then yesterday (Saturday) me start think bout he because that’s when we get to really know or confirm he was with them”. As relatives arrived at his home, Massidas was reduced to tears as many cried with him and thanked the Almighty that he was alive.

It was the young man’s second trip to Port Kaituma and last evening he was unsure as to whether he will return to the seas.

Meantime Trevor Garraway, the brother of Julian Garraway told this newspaper yesterday that he was with a group of men from the Pomeroon who discovered Massidas. He said that the teams continued to scour the Waini area for his brother and Vansluytman yesterday, adding that they will continue today until their efforts are exhausted.

Tandica Garraway tried her best to remain composed as relatives prayed and expressed hope that the father of a two-week-old baby boy will be found alive. Garraway’s mother-in-law told this newspaper that the young man worked in the interior as a miner. She said that her daughter was staying with her at her Stewartville home since she needed assistance with the baby while her husband was away.

She noted that the family received a “strange” phone call from Julian around 10 pm on the fateful Wednesday night during which he briefly related that the vessel was sinking.

“He call Tandica and said that the vessel going down and that’s all…we tried calling back but wasn’t getting through”, the woman noted. She said that it was the first time the man was travelling into the interior by boat. “He came here the day before he left and he kissed them.. ..he even named the baby and now we don’t know where he is but we are just asking the Father to be with him at this time”, the man’s mother–in-law said.

According to a Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) official, the search parties are expected to sweep the Waini Coast today in search of Garraway and Vansluytman. Coordinated efforts between the GDF, MARAD and the public are being undertaken.

The blue and white coloured MV Crissan–V departed for the NWD on Wednesday with 9 persons on board five of whom were part of the crew while the others were accompanying mining equipment, including a dredge and an excavator whose owner was shifting his mining operations from the Cuyuni at the time. Five men managed to pull themselves aboard the barge when the ship sank on Wednesday night.

The vessel has had a checkered history having failed inspections by MARAD in 2008. It was subsequently moved to the Essequibo Coast from the county of Demerara by its owners. It was moored at the Roden Rust area along the banks of the Essequibo River in the vicinity of Parika for several months, MARAD noted on Thursday evening.

A survivor recounted that the ship was operating with its hull and other surfaces covered with cement while its body was also plastered with ‘Euroband’ to prevent leaks. The captain continued on the trip to Port Kaituma last Wednesday evening amid deteriorating weather conditions despite pleas from the crew.

The authorities have also heavily criticized the captain of the vessel as well as the owners of the cargo since it was some 16 hours after the incident that the maritime department was alerted to the mishap.

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