By Kenesha Fraser
A truck loaded with bags of chicken feed fell into the Essequibo River early yesterday morning as it was being discharged from one of the Chinese roll-on/roll-off ferries MV Kanawan at the Good Hope Supenaam Stelling, leaving its driver in such a state of shock, he had to be taken to the hospital.
According to reports, around 1.40 am yesterday, the truck bearing number plate GKK 9159 was aboard the MV Kanawan, which was docked at the Supenaam stelling, having just arrived from Parika. The iron ramp that leads from the boat to the stelling suddenly gave way as the truck, which is owned by businessman Delroy Griffith, was exiting the ferry.
A press release issued by the Transport and Harbours Department early yesterday morning had stated that the truck was being off loaded when the incident occurred.
Stabroek News was told that the truck was laden with chicken feed, doors and groceries. Manager of the Delroy Griffith Com-pany Parmeshwar Singh said this was the first time one of the company’s trucks was involved in such an incident.
“I was told that the ramp fell and there was no way the truck could have reversed.
The truck had chicken feed and groceries that went down and an estimated $2.5 million was lost there,” Singh said. In addition, he said that the truck was valued at “approximately $7 million. Over ten years the Delroy Griffith Company is in business and nothing of this sort has ever happened.” Luckily, 35-year-old Anthony Thomas, the driver of the truck, escaped unscathed. However, he was taken to the Suddie Public Hospital since according to Singh “he was in a state of shock.”
Superintendent of the Good Hope Supenaam Stelling, Mr Jagroop (only name given) declined to speak with the media but Stabroek News was told that management of the stelling had made contact with Public Works Minister Robeson Benn and two representatives were sent to assess the situation.
Observers said the ramp was not properly secured when the ferry docked and that was what caused the incident.
“I was sitting on the bow of the boat there and I was watching when the de crew throw out the rope and so,” a passenger on the ferry said. “They tie de rope to dem big posts there but to me the rope dem went too slack. A next vehicle de come off the boat first but it deh light. But because this one was heavy, the ropes couldn’t take de tension and that’s why the ramp fall down,” the passenger whose vehicle was stuck on the ferry said.
Ronald Gomes, a businessman from Herstelling, East Bank Demerara, whose truck was stuck on the ferry with an estimated 3,000 pounds of chicken was trying to arrange to have the meat offloaded.
“I usually supply shops with plucked chicken along the Essequibo Coast and is come I come over with the boat when this happen,” Gomes said. “The chicken that I have there is worth about $1.5 million and I am afraid that all of them spoil,” he lamented.
He added, “This morning I was sleeping in my vehicle when I hear a uproar. When I went to look, the truck was already down there and it start to sink.” When Stabroek News visited the scene, the truck was completely submerged and only the tarpaulin that had been covering the goods was visible. Among all the other vehicles stuck on the ferry were two ambulances attached to the Suddie Public Hospital that were returning to the Essequibo Coast after having taken patients to the city.
Meanwhile, the management of the stelling set up a makeshift ramp to allow passengers who were stranded on the ferry to get to land. One man said it was a “scary experience for the women dem because me de frighten too.” He also blamed the captain and the crew members for the mishap, stating that the ropes were slack and the boat was not properly moored.
Regional Chairman Parmanand Persaud visited the scene and said that the situation should be rectified soon.
Meanwhile, Acting Harbour Master Michael Tennant in a requested statement said they were in the process of identifying what went wrong and to see what mechanisms can be put in place to prevent another such occurrence. When this newspaper spoke to Tennant he was waiting for a tugboat to arrive from Wakenaam along with two excavators that would assist in salvaging the sunken truck. He opined that around midday yesterday the problem would have been rectified.
Because the truck sank between the ferry and the stelling it needed to be moved before the ferry could get close enough to the stelling to be moored.
The mishap caused a delay in the allotted time the ferry was scheduled to leave Supenaam for Parika and another steamer, MV Malali was working instead.