Joel Paton, who survived an early morning attack on Wednesday, when a mining camp at Imataka, Venezuela, was raided by gunmen, said he watched as his fellow miners were shot dead.
Paton, 22, of Supenaam Creek Head Mission, Essequibo River, was one of the 11 miners, who were asleep during the early morning assault on the mining camp. He is grateful to be alive after the horrendous ordeal, which took three lives.
Dead are Vernon Eudoxie, 48, and Colwyn Solomon, 23, both of Fitzburg, Port Kaituma, and Samuel Moses, 27, of Four Miles Oronoque, Port Kaituma. They were shot dead, allegedly by Spanish-speaking men around 4 am on July 19.
The police said in a statement that Paton and the three deceased were part of a team employed by a Brazilian miner, who was operating a land dredge at Imataka Mining Backdam, Venezuela, approximately three miles from the Guyana border.
About 3 am on Wednesday, police said, the camp was allegedly attacked by four men, with foreign accents, who began shooting indiscriminately, resulting in the death of the three men, whose co-workers fled into the bushes.
Paton, who was also seriously injured, was taken to Port Kaituma Hospital by his co-workers on Thursday morning, and air-dashed to the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) later that day. He had been shot five times: in his hand, groin and thrice in his left thigh.
The young man, who has been working as a miner all his adult life, said the attack was indelibly etched in his memory.
Paton recalled that on the night of Tuesday, July 18, he and the other miners packed up the camp and retired to their hammocks to sleep. He said that it was around 3.30 am to 4 am that he heard noises but thought one of the miners was walking around in the camp. “After I thought that I just hear like bang, bang, rapid fire like, and we like jump,” Paton said.
Paton said the first person he saw them shoot was Solomon. “I see he get shoot to his head and then like they firing all over the place. I get hit in my hand first, cause my hand was resting on top my head,” he explained adding that other miners leapt out of their hammocks and made a run for the bushes. He said Moses who was near to him got up and ran but was shot in his back. “After he get shoot he made a set of noise and that was it,” Paton said. “I had to play dead too cause I couldn’t have run. I did done get shoot in my legs.”
He said it was hard to see them murdered. “Them man were like brothers to me cause we all work together so you feel it,” he added.
Meanwhile, another of the survivors who arrived from Port Kaituma to visit Paton at GPH, expressed how disappointed he was with the government for not providing security for them in Guyana, which made the miners migrate to Venezuela for work. “We miners need security, if we can get police or army patrol in Guyana. If we did get that here we would have never left to go Venezuela, the government have to do better for small miners,” the survivor who requested anonymity said.
The mother of Moses, Una Moses, when contacted by Stabroek News yesterday morning, was heartbroken over her eldest son’s death. “My heart is just crying out. I am heartbroken that I lose him. Now I only have four children,” she cried out over the phone.
Una said that she had not seen her son since last November, when he left Port Kaituma. She said she was a single parent, trying to raise Moses’s younger siblings, and he would send money for her. Una said she was very dependent on her son and now that he is gone she does not know what she will do.
The mother of the dead miner said that a post-mortem examination was yet to be conducted, but while identifying her son’s body, she was told by the police that he was shot in his back and the bullet exited through his stomach.
In recent days local police have been addressing raids in the Cuyuni area by foreign-speaking gunmen. Observers noted that with the deep economic crisis in Venezuela, there could likely be a surge in cross-border attacks on miners.