MARAD still to complete report on deadly Mazaruni River crash

The Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) has yet to complete its final report on the Mazaruni boat collision that resulted in 10 deaths in late January.

Transport and Hydraulics Minister Robeson Benn told Stabroek News that the report was stalled after yet another collision on the Kaituma River, which resulted in two deaths on March 24.

Benn stated that MARAD’s safety campaign, launched in the aftermath of the January 22nd collision, was ongoing and he was dismayed that in spite of the vigorous education, yet another preventable accident occurred. The minister noted that MARAD has “been to several locations, Bartica, Parika, Linden too, I think. They have been to the Pomeroon River and they will continue the campaign it is ongoing.”

Benn said that the administration will be compiling the information for public knowledge. He said that waterway safety was a major priority for the ministry and it will continue to focus on education and reforms to the sector to better serve the public.

MARAD Director Claudette Rogers told Stabroek News that the final report “has to be very careful in its findings.” She added that “a report like this is no walk in the park, it takes research and time.”

Preliminary reports, from mid-February, stated that both of the boat captains involved in the Mazaruni tragedy, Kobesh Persaud and Devon Thomas, were operating vessels that were unlicensed. MARAD found that the there were severe deficiencies in life saving equipment, such as lifejackets and both boats were overloaded. Both captains also infringed provisions of the Shipping Act and the River Navigation Act.

The preliminary findings stated that both vessels failed to maintain lookouts and the bowman for the boat named Mattrani did not have his certificate of competency.  This paired with the speed in which both boats took a blind turn are all cited as possible causes for the collision.

MARAD’s preliminary findings had suggested that both captains and the crewman face a series of charges, however this has yet to happen.

Rogers said that MARAD still had further investigations to conduct when Stabroek News inquired as to why the report was not released to the public a week after the accident, as was promised by maritime officials. Rogers noted that the preliminary investigations needed verification. She said too that the administration had begun its safety campaign following the Mazaruni tragedy and after the Pomeroon accident, which resulted in the death of six persons in December.

Families frustrated

The families of the dead are upset that MARAD and the police have not been forthcoming with the Mazaruni details.

Ronald Persaud, uncle of Christopher Ramnarine, noted that his family had hoped for answers from officials. However, “we not really hearing from them, you know, neither telling us anything. Really, we just going off what we hearing and what rumours deh about.”

Persaud, who is also a seaman, said that “we have to let them keep doing their work. I mean it is taking long, but I work on the water, same like my nephew, and things happen. …. I just hope they don’t forget that for some family they need answers.”

Those sentiments weren’t shared by other families. Neesha Alfonso, whose brother Jermaine Calistro was among one of the first found dead, said that her mother would like answers. “I feel like it was just left like that. We don’t know nothing and no one has information for us even when you ask,” she said, while adding that she wanted the riverways safer and thought the police needed to take a more active role in pushing MARAD to deliver its finding formally.

“If the maritime official know that one of the captains has a history of poor driving, they need to tell the police and have his licence taken away,” Alfonso said.

In addition to Ramnaine, 21 and Calistro, 27, Keanu Amsterdam, 17 and his brother Ricky Bobb, 27; Deon Moses, 33; Kevon Ambrose, 25; Francisco Olivera Alves, 48; Zahir Baksh, 34; Jewan Seeram, 48; and Ulrick Grimes, 39 died after the collision.

MARAD has come under scrutiny over safety standards and the length of time the agency has taken to provide answers for one of the most deadly waterway tragedies in Guyana.

Police have, meanwhile, arrested the alleged drunken captain who caused the Kaituma collision, while Hytilall Ramandahin, the captain charged with manslaughter following the December 18 Pomeroon river collision in which six persons were killed, remains before the court.

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