A fisherman yesterday relived an agonising 29 hours at sea after the boat he was in capsized and he swam for several hours to the shores of Trinidad and Tobago but two other crewmembers, a father and son are still missing.
Tensions ran high at a De Willem, West Coast Demerara home yesterday after the survivor, Omadatt Basdeo confronted another crew member, Mahesh Singh who he blamed for the mishap. Singh eventually left the premises after a verbal onslaught from a distraught Basdeo and a scuffle.
Missing at sea are Samuel Dabideen, 43, and his son Arjohn Peraud, 23. The four had embarked on the fishing trip on September 27 on a vessel owned by another person and on October 2nd, the owner of the boat contacted Dabideen’s family to say he and his son were missing at sea.
According to Nirvana Persaud, her father, Dabideen; her brother, Persaud, 23; Basdeo, 32; and Singh, 35, had ventured out to sea on September 27.
Dabideen, who was the captain and has been fishing for more than 16 years, along with the three others had left early in the morning and were at sea for four days before there was a tragic turn of events. “We got a message on the Saturday stating that three of the crew members were missing and only one had made it to shore,” Persaud said, pointing out that prior to leaving more than two weeks ago, her father had only returned from sea two weeks earlier.
She told Stabroek News that the man would usually spend up to a month at sea and would always come back. “He’s been doing it for a very long time so we don’t even understand what exactly happened,” she said.
While Stabroek News was at the De Willem home, Basdeo and Singh turned up to explain to the family what had occurred at sea.
Basdeo recounted the horrific incident that has him “scarred for life.”
“We get up and we seh we bait all (the hooks) but we gon go out on the small boat and bait lil and throw it and come back,” Basdeo said, stating that Dabideen had decided that they would go out on the smaller vessel to set the bait to catch the fish. However, when Singh had entered the boat, Basdeo said that he appeared to have been scared since it was shaking. “But Uncle Joe [Dabideen] said it was good and it gon work, so he tell Buddah [Singh] to watch we but he [Singh] de want to go cook roti,” the still visibly-shaken Basdeo stated.
He pointed out that Dabideen had instructed Singh to use the binoculars and to keep watch on them from the larger vessel since the water was “not normal”. “Uncle Joe said that they got bread and sausage and we gon eat that but he [Singh] de want to make roti and so he [Dabideen] seh we gon go out and we nah gon bait all and we gon come back and he [Singh] gon make roti,” Basdeo said.
However, Basdeo said that after the three men pulled off and motored further away from the larger vessel, he turned around to see if Singh was keeping watch but was unable to see him. “I seh Uncle Joe, Buddah not on the boat watching we and he doing he own thing,” Basdeo related, stating that the intensity of the waves grew as the afternoon marched on.
Sometime later, a large wave came crashing through and “one swelling [wave] come and knock the boat over and all of we into the water,” Basdeo recalled. He said after the boat was hit over and they fell into the water, Dabideen’s son grabbed onto a bag with some bottles since he could not swim as well as the others.
“We deh in the water and the water pull we all and we just grab the flag and waving, waving, waving fuh Buddah but we ain’t seeing he and the place de getting darker and darker,” the man said, stating that they waved for more than 30 minutes until the darkness crept in and they could no longer see the boat or anything.
At that point, they decided to strip the boat of the engine and turn it back over. After they were able to turn the boat back over they quickly jumped in. However, they were unable to manoeuvre it through the water and had to let the waves guide them.
“We didn’t know where we de going and we couldn’t do anything cause we couldn’t see anything,” he recalled. The three men spent the entire night and the next day riding the waves until they saw a shoreline far away.
While Basdeo suggested that they get out of the boat and swim to the shoreline Dabideen had refused since he said it was too far away. However, Basdeo decided to go it alone and reached the shore several hours after. He discovered he was in Trinidad after a woman thought he was a thief and alerted the neighbours. However, after he explained what had happened to him he was taken to a nearby police station where he repeated his story to them. He was sent home and the Trinidadian authorities have since launched a search for the father and son. However, while Basdeo returned several days ago, it was only yesterday that Dabideen’s relatives had seen him since he said he was scared and did not know how to approach them.
While Basdeo and Singh were at Dabideen’s relatives yesterday recalling what had happened, a scuffle broke out between them after Basdeo claimed that it was Singh’s negligence that led to the tragedy. However, Singh said that he was instructed by Dabideen to make roti before he left the boat and had gone to do so around 5 pm.
“We were playing cards up until 3:30 in the afternoon and we push down the boat and start it up and Uncle Joe tell me to cook roti before he left. I see they start to throw line so I went to knead me flour and I come back about 20 minutes later and I see them still,” Singh explained.
He said that he went back to finish off his roti and spent another 20 minutes and when he returned he did not see them.
“Me nah see the boat nothing so I went to pull up the anchor and that tek me another 20 minutes or so cause is was me alone,” the distraught man said. He explained that after he pulled up the anchor he started the boat and searched for another hour to no avail.
He said he retired and went to bed after and woke at 5 PM and continued the search. He searched for another five hours for the men but this was also fruitless. After searching he met up with a boat from Parika and he was advised to contact the owner of the vessel. After contacting the owner of the vessel he was told to get another craft and continue searching for the men. “I keep searching for like another five hours but me ain’t see or hear anything,” the man said, stating that he returned to the larger vessel and returned home.
After Singh told his side of the story the argument intensified and Basdeo repeatedly blamed Singh for not paying attention to them. After the argument Basdeo broke down in tears and was comforted by Dabideen’s relatives.
Even though the two men have been missing for over a week, Persaud said that she is confident that they are still alive and is pleading with the authorities to continue searching. She disclosed that the family was able to obtain a document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was sent to Trinidad for their assistance.
“We still hoping and praying that somebody find them and that the coast guards and other people from the Caribbean are alert and find them,” the girl said.