Pomeroon River needs regular clearing to prevent accidents, residents say

Residents who live around the Pomeroon River say that efforts need to be made to constantly clear the waterway to prevent accidents.

The observation was made after a man was hospitalised on Thursday when the boat he was travelling in crashed into a log in the river.

Delroy Henry, 24, of Father’s Beach, Moruca, Region One, who sustained head injuries, is now a patient at the Suddie Public Hospital.

Ravin Piper

Henry along with cousin Troy Piper, 21, and George Van Sluytman, 61, were in the vessel on Thursday heading to the Lower Pomeroon River to pick up passengers travelling to Charity when the accident occurred. They were due to attend the funeral of Ravin Piper, who died in a recent river accident in the Moruca River.

Troy Piper, who was the captain of the boat at the time, is the brother of Ravin Piper.

Speaking with Stabroek News at the Oscar Joseph District Hospital, Troy Piper said he was in the vicinity of Grant Trial Lower Pomeroon River, when he felt the boat hit the submerged object, causing him to lose control. The boat then crashed into a tree.

Stabroek News was also told that the men were not wearing any life jackets, which is customary among private boat operators.

A distraught Troy Piper

A resident of the area, Ryan Van Sluytman, told Stabroek News that with respect to the debris, such as logs and coconut husks, more attention needs to be paid to cleaning the river and also ensuring that farmers prevent their refuse from getting into the water.

He explained that most persons who live in the area depend on coconut farming to survive and they would usually clean the coconuts at their homes and dump the husks on the river bank, from there they would eventually get into the water.

Van Sluytman also said that in addition to the logs and coconut husks, bottles, bags and other plastics can also be found in the river; he said these things present a danger to boats traversing the river. He noted that because of the brown colour of the water, logs and husks were not visible to the boat operators, and as a result they would end up colliding with the obstacles.

“Farmers need to start disposing of their husks better because that does cause a problem too. In terms of the logs, not many people does do logs here so that was probably just one stray away from somebody that cause the accident,” he said, while pointing out that the relevant authorities need to ensure that the river is always cleared.

He pointed out that currently, the mouth of the river is clogged with mud and coconut husks and desilting is urgently needed. “Sometimes when it’s low tide, you can’t even travel properly because of the mud and husks and it need to be done soon,” he added.

With respect to persons not wearing lifejackets, Van Sluytman said that it is because most people using private boats on the river grew up in the surrounding area and have been traversing the river all their lives.

“All the passenger boats would have life jackets but them man that does live around area don’t because they grow up here and all of them could swim and what’s not,” he added.

Stabroek News was unable to contact officials at the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD). However, MARAD had stated on Wednesday that it was collaborating with the Coastguard to have joint enforcement and maritime exercises in the various riverine areas around the country from July 17.

The statement said that the exercises will be ongoing and will involve joint patrols from MARAD officers, Fisheries Officers and the Coastguard, who will check the certification and registration of vessels and boat operations, while ensuring that all the operations comply with the river safety rules.

The Bartica, Mazaruni, Charity, Pomeroon, Moruca, Mabaruma, Morawhanna, Port Kaituma and Berbice areas will be targeted in the exercise.

The statement was issued several days after Ravin Piper and his father George Piper went missing following the boat collision in Moruca River. Ravin’s body was found the next day, while searches for George are ongoing.

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