Captain didn’t abandon Pomeroon crash victims, says Region Two Chairman

-as cops probe for additional charges

Region Two Chairman Parmanand Persaud is maintaining that the captain of the regional administration boat that collided with another vessel on the Pomeroon River last month, resulting in six deaths, left the scene to get help and did not abandon the victims.
The Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) has recommended charges against the captain, whose licence has been suspended since the accident and a police source yesterday told Stabroek News that police investigators are now proceeding with information to file additional charges.

The source explained that MARAD’s investigation only recommended that the boat captain be charged with failing to render assistance and not adhering to the laws and regulations which are set out under the Guyana Shipping Act of 1998 and the international regulations for preventing collisions at sea.

The source said that if investigators are not able to find any more evidence about the accident, then the recommended charges will be filed against the captain. This information comes at a time when family members of the six victims are asking why the captain has not appeared before the court.

Persaud, who was in the region’s vessel at the time of the December 18, 2012 accident, is maintaining that the captain did not abandon the victims. “As I said before, the boat did not drive away from the scene. We went to shore to get help and assistance from persons because our boat was filled with people. Where would they have fit? So, it is logical to get help as fast as possible. We were on water with a lot of traumatised persons on board,” Persaud related.

The families of the victims have said that Persaud’s actions should be the subject of an investigation. “I was not the captain of the boat nor was I driving it at the time, I was a passenger at the time so I don’t think I should be charged with anything,” he said when asked to comment on the call.

Boat captain Harrinarine Bhagwandin and his nephew Vincent Singh, 40, both of Abrams Creek; Velda Rodriguez, 50, and her son Shawn Rodriguez, 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.

The child who is the lone survivor of the accident, Eli Rodriguez, is reported to be recovering well but he did not resume school yesterday when the new term started.

When Stabroek News contacted his stepfather, Mark Rodriguez, he related that he was in the interior while his son is now in the care of his aunt in Abrams Creek. “What could I say? I miss my wife but I am taking it one day at a time but you can’t dwell in the past. It was tragic and yes I am trying to move on, Velda won’t want see me like this,” Rodriguez said.

MARAD had reported that both vessels were travelling close to the left bank of the river on a (similar) course when they collided and that 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).

It said its investigation revealed that at the time of the collision, it was raining but that did not obscure the captains’ visibility. Instead, it explained that there were a number of breaches which were found to be in violation of the Collision Regulations, including “Failing to maintain a proper look out at all times”, “Proceeding at a safe speed so as to take proper and effective action to avoid collision”, “Failing to alter the vessel’s course to starboard” and “Failing to render assistance to operator and passengers.”

A source knowledgeable about maritime regulations, when asked about the responsibility of the boat captain after a collision, told Stabroek News that by law the captain should immediately stop give assistance to persons if there is a need for help. The source said that the captain of the vessel is solely responsible for the orders and is not permitted to take any instructions from passengers while on the water. It was noted that in the event the boat is filled, the captain would then go back to shore, offload passengers and then immediately return to the crash site to render assistance.

The source noted that rules of the road also apply on water. If a boat is travelling down river, it has the right away on the left bank of the said river. Also, every boat that turns in on the main river needs to give way to passing vessels. It was also stated that if two boats are approaching each other in what appears to be a head on collision, they need to try and stop as fast as possible.

The source further added that on the Pomeroon River, which is narrow, boats sometimes travel at a speed of 20 to 30 miles per hour and there are no horsepower restrictions. It was noted that internationally, there is a speed limit of 10 miles per hour on vessels travelling on rivers with the same diameter as the Pomeroon and it was recommended that this be observed in Guyana.

Every boat that travels on water needs to be equipped with the navigational lights as the law states, the source added.

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