Pirate attack survivor recounts harrowing tale

-two bodies retrieved, two more arrested in Guyana

Persons at a march in Suriname yesterday walk in solidarity with families who were affected by the piracy attack.

Sherwin Lovell, the fisherman rescued on Thursday, after being stranded at sea for six days following a pirate attack on his vessel, recalled jumping from the boat to preserve his life, and riding the tide to safety.

Lovell, 42, who said he swam two days before arriving at the seashore badly injured, told reporters in Suriname yesterday that after his experience, he is looking to retire from his fishing career, and seek a job closer to home.

Lovell is one of five so far reported survivors, with the other four fishers having swum back to shore soon after the attack last Friday, which occurred in the vicinity of the Wia Wia bank in Suriname. Darmandrew Persaud is one of the four known survivors.

Four boats were attacked by five pirates in Surinamese waters two Fridays ago. Each boat was said to have been carrying five passengers, including four fishermen and a boat captain. Most of the men, including Lovell, are Guyanese. Sixteen were said to be missing after the attack.

During a search, three bodies were spotted at various points. On Thursday, one of the bodies, identified as that of Danesh Persaud, was retrieved. Yesterday, two more bodies were retrieved from the Wia Wia Bank area. The three bodies are being held at a mortuary in Paramaribo.

Lovell, recalling his ordeal, stated that the pirates had told the crew that they were there to “kill”, however, it was after they started to beat one of his fellow fishermen that he realized that they actually meant what they said.

This is what led Lovell to make the plunge into the ocean with no certainty of being rescued. His main thought at that time was to escape the reach of the pirates, who were seemingly out for blood.

According to Lovell, the men on his boat were at the time pulling up their catch when the pirates launched their vicious attack.  A warning shot was first fired, after which the pirates boarded their boat. He noted that he was at the back of the boat taking out the catch when the perpetrators approached him and started to deal him lashes about his body.

An emotional Lovell, recounting his story, said that after the pirates declared, ‘all ayo we go kill tonight’, the fishermen started to beg for their lives.

Due to the heavy tide, the pirates could not get their boat close to the one Lovell was working on, as such, they ordered the fishermen to transfer the catch from their boat onto the pirates’.

“While that man shying the fish them tell the man don’t make none fish go overboard cause the snapper good, (or we gon)  chop out ayo neck,” Lovell recalled.

According to the survivor, one of the now missing fishermen, Ralph Anthony Couchman, also known as “Burnham”, mistakenly threw a fish overboard, leading the now-annoyed pirates to broadside him about his body.

Lovell, fighting back tears, said, “Ow boy you see when them man start broadside Burnham, a move the icebox and a push up me head and see, the man broadside me all on me head, them man start beat we up”.

Lovell told the reporters that it was at that time he realized the pirates meant their word and were out to kill them, prompting him to make the decision, without thought, to plunge overboard.

“I say well me ain’t deading hay suh, if ayo want kill me ayo could kill me overboard and I plunge off the boat from the icebox,” he said.

He, however, reported that another fisherman plunged overboard at the same time, causing the pirates to focus their attention on that fisher, and providing Lovell with the golden opportunity to escape.

He noted that when he plunged, the pirates pointed out that there was a man overboard, however, he added, “Them couldn’t focus on me, them had to focus on de man”.

Lovell noted that when he swam off, the captain on their boat was still alive.

An injured Lovell, now alone in the waters, rode the tide for some two days until he found a mudflat, where he said he pulled his upper body on to “catch a five”.

“After a catch me self good, a pull up more cause water start washing me up more and take me to shore corner till a meet dam,” he recollected.

At that point, there was no one in sight. Lovell noted that he lay on the shore and started to imagine what had happened to his friends out at sea.

“I start studying if them man this kill out me friends, or if them man jump overboard behind me when them see I jump, all this thing I start thinking,” he said.

He also noted that when sand flies and mosquitoes started to bite, he would head into the water and wash himself off and then later return to shore.

After recovering somewhat, he began walking until he met three local men, one of whom phoned the police.

Lovell was picked up at Braamspunt, which is located west of Commewijne District, Suriname on Thursday morning. He was rushed to the local hospital, where he was treated for his injuries.

Lovell sustained a broken right arm, chop wounds to his left hand, right knee, and other injuries on his head, back and other parts of his body.

“Sometimes in life you get strong”, were Lovell’s words, as he stressed that the authorities in Suriname need to pay more interest to protecting every person plying their trade to earn an honest living at sea, despite their nationality.

The investigation

Locally, police in Berbice yesterday took two other persons into custody for questioning, bringing it to a total of three persons arrested in Guyana, including a Corentyne boat owner.

This information was confirmed by Crime Chief Paul Williams.

The other two men arrested also hail from the Corentyne, one reportedly from Philippi Village and the other from Number 43 Village.

The three men are all being held at the New Amsterdam Police Station for questioning. A police source yesterday afternoon said the men were not saying much.

Police authorities in Suriname were yesterday still questioning a Guyanese who was handed over to them by local fishermen on Thursday.

According to a police source, the fisherman in custody is known to have been a part of a group that was allegedly hijacking boats at sea since 2002. The source noted that investigators are also speaking to other persons in Suriname.

Suriname police had issued a release yesterday asking for details from relatives of the missing men. Families were asked to take the names and a forms of identification for the missing fishermen. Relatives are encouraged to visit the Nieuwe (New) Haven office. The office can be reached at 00597403645 or 00597403252.

The missing men so far identified are: Tilaknauth Mohabir, 50, also known as ‘Kai’; Ganesh Beharry, Ralph Anthony Couchman, 19, also known as ‘Burnham’; Ramesh Sancharra, 48; Glenroy Jones, 21; Ramnarine Singh; Bharat Heeralall also known as “Record”, 49; Sunil known as Poddock, Mahesh Sarjoo, 35 and Rajkumar Bissessar.

Fishermen Bobby Ibrahim and Randy Burnette were previously reported missing by their relatives, however, the relatives have since said that the men have made contact with them from sea.

Boats brought in

Meanwhile, boat owners in Suriname as of yesterday were phoning their captains to return to wharf as they refuse to fall victim to hijackers out at sea.

Persons in Suriname told Stabroek News that the fishermen believe the authorities are not doing enough at this time, and as such, they have decided to dock their boats until they feel it is safe to return to sea to fish.

Additionally, the price of fish is expected to rise in Suriname, as fisher folk will be at a standstill for some time.

Meanwhile, fishermen from the Upper Corentyne in Guyana were still heading out to sea as of yesterday.

A source on the Corentyne told Stabroek News that they are “protecting themselves”, and will respond immediately to any distress call from their fishermen.

Yesterday afternoon, persons in Suriname took to the streets to march in honour of all the fishermen attacked at sea by pirates, and to call on authorities to do more for fishermen.

The gathering saw addresses being delivered by religious leaders and members of civil society.

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