Trinidad: Lifeguards at Maracas Bay continue strike after beach-goer drowns

Raj Sonnylal, 29, died at hospital after getting into difficulties at Maracas Bay on Sunday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Life­guards at Mara­cas Bay are ad­vis­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic to stay away, say­ing they will be go­ing at their own risk.

The warn­ing came on the heels of week­end’s walk­out of on-du­ty life­guards as re­cent se­ri­ous health and safe­ty con­cerns in the past three weeks have failed to be ad­dressed by the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty.

The life­guards are now de­mand­ing a meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley as they claim that there are on­ly “emp­ty promis­es” met­ed out by the Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young.

Young last met with them re­gard­ing their is­sues last year Sep­tem­ber and to date, none of their is­sues have been re­solved.

On Sun­day morn­ing the av­er­age ten life­guards re­port­ed for du­ty, how­ev­er, all of them de­part­ed their re­spec­tive posts at about 11 am.

Less than one hour af­ter, a beach­go­er got in­to dif­fi­cul­ties.

He was iden­ti­fied as Raj Son­ny­lal, 29, of Pe­nal, who was em­ployed with Lifestyle Mo­tors.

Maracas Bay lifeguards are warning beachgoers that they will be going to the beach at their own risks as the lifeguards are upset over health and safety issues.

Life­guards from Las Cuevas Beach took 30 min­utes to re­spond af­ter Son­ny­lal was brought to shore.

He was tak­en to the Port-of-Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal where he died overnight.

In a Face­book post, Lifestyle Mo­tors ex­pressed heart­felt con­do­lences to the fam­i­ly and loved ones of their col­league.

“Raj Son­ny­lal, gone too soon. The Lifestyle Mo­tors fam­i­ly would like to take this op­por­tu­ni­ty to ex­press our con­do­lences to Raj’s fam­i­ly. friends and cowork­ers. Our prayers are with you as we say good­bye to a young man who has im­pact­ed us all,” the post read.

Speak­ing with Guardian Me­dia Tues­day, spokesper­son for the life­guards, Au­gus­tus Sylvester said for the past three weeks life­guards at Mara­cas Bay are faced with se­ri­ous wa­ter prob­lems and raw sewage leak­ing in­to the ground floor of the two-storey build­ing.

“Out of six toi­lets – three up­stairs and three down­stairs on­ly one down­stairs is work­ing. The oth­er one down­stairs is bub­bling and leak­ing raw sewage in­side the build­ing which is very un­san­i­tary for us. Al­so, there is no wa­ter in the show­ers on­ly a trick­le in the foot pipe,” Sylvester said.

“The build­ing is al­so plagued with rat drop­pings and the equip­ment in the stores are con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed. We can­not func­tion un­der those con­di­tions and these are things un­der the Oc­cu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health Act,” he added.

Au­gus­tus who joined the ser­vice 32 years ago said there have been ex­ist­ing is­sues since back then.

“Ba­sic things we don’t have which is no mo­torised equip­ment, no boat, no jet skis and no mod­ern ful­ly equipped am­bu­lance…We are work­ing with 1943 equip­ment and as though we are in cave­man days. In the last four years it has got­ten worst,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester al­so raised the is­sue of the ser­vice be­ing se­vere­ly short staffed and added that in the last decade they have trained 30 peo­ple and not one has been hired, “We look­ing on…imag­ine the main­te­nance sec­tion re­cent­ly took in 21 peo­ple so what’s their em­pha­sis? Is it the clean­ing of the beach or the preser­va­tion of lives?”

For the rest of the week and un­til their health and safe­ty is­sues are ad­dressed, Sylvester said life­guards will con­tin­ue to re­port dai­ly to work, sign the book and leave af­ter two hours, “the num­ber one rule in life­guard ser­vice is that our own safe­ty comes first be­fore any oth­er.”

When Guardian Me­dia vis­it­ed the life­guard build­ing Tues­day af­ter­noon work­ers were seen car­ry­ing out plumb­ing re­pairs to the wa­ter pump and of­fi­cials from a pest con­trol com­pa­ny were seen ad­dress­ing the rat in­fes­ta­tion prob­lem and car­ry­ing out san­i­ti­za­tion works.

A life­guard on du­ty said not un­til all the im­me­di­ate health and safe­ty is­sues are ad­dressed the life­guards will re­turn to their re­spec­tive posts.

Re­me­di­al works are ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed by week’s end.

Some beach­go­ers at the flag­ship beach Tues­day ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in the fail­ure to ad­dress the press­ing is­sues faced by the life­guards and are hope­ful for an im­me­di­ate in­ter­ven­tion by the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.

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