LMCS attorney at CoE: Systematic failure at Paria

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney Kamini Persaud-Maraj delivers her closing statements on behalf of LMCS Energy Services Company at the Commission of Enquiry into the Paria Diving Tragedy at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, on Thursday. – ROGER JACOB

LAND and Marine Construction Services Ltd (LMCS) lead attorney Kamini Persaud Maharaj claimed that Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd failed on all fronts when four LMCS divers died on their premises in Pointe-a-Pierre, last year.

She made this claim as she concluded arguments by LMCS before the Paria Commission of Enquiry (CoE) at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre on Thursday.

Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were doing routine maintenance on a 30-inch pipeline at Berth 6, belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd,t Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25, 2022, when they were sucked into the pipeline. Only Boodram survived.

Referring to evidence presented before the commission last year and earlier this month, Persaud Maharaj said Paria failed to take proper action to rescue the divers and treat with their families when the incident happened.

“There is a systematic failure in that institution.”

Persaud Maharaj claimed this failure included Paria’s failure to properly outline to LMCS the scope of works it needed to do on the pipeline and “the decision not to permit a viable rescue from being mounted in order to save the men trapped in the 30-inch pipeline at sealine #36.”

She said Paria appeared to be telling the commission that the contract between itself and LMCS to do work on the pipeline “was on a turn-key basis.”

Persaud Maharaj said a turn-key project would have involved the design, sourcing of materials, control or substantial controls of the site and completion time of the project, being solely LMCS’ responsibility.

She argued this was not the case.

Persaud-Maharaj said the job being undertaken by LMCS was subjected to a system which required the company to seek permits to do its job and Paria having the option to stop the job if necessary.

“That is directly contradictive to that concept (of turn key).”

She said, “In fact, in Paria’s investigation report (into the incident), they themselves were not convinced that the contract was a turn-key project.”

Persaud-Maharaj added that the report, released after the incident, said, “Paria contracted LMCS Ltd to execute a turn-key type contract.”

She said no proper guidelines were given by Paria about the amount of fluid which should be removed from the pipeline to allow repair works on it to be done safely and avoid the risk of a Delta P situation.

Persaud-Maharaj was critical about the lack of proper monitoring by Paria of the divers while they were underwater. She claimed that Paria ignored reports that tapping sounds were being heard from trapped divers in the pipeline on February 25 and 26, 2022.

Responding to questions from CoE chairman Jerome Lynch KC, Persaud Maharaj admitted this claim could not be corroborated.

She also claimed Paria had plans for confined-space rescues but no plan to rescue the trapped divers.

Persaud Maharaj said it was wrong for anyone to claim LMCS workers were intimidating Paria officials at the incident site and LMCS was never told Paria formed an incident command team to rescue the divers.

She called for an internal audit of all systems at Paria to be done, to prevent a repeat of this incident.

Persaud Maharaj warned that unless this happens “it is a danger to all contractors working in Paria and provide services that are high risk.”

She said the actions of Paria in this incident were similar to those of the priest and Levite in the biblical parable of the good samaritan.

“A man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers on the way. He was badly beaten and left for dead.

The first person to pass the injured man was a priest, who crossed the road and continued walking.

The second person to pass the injured man was a Levite, a priest’s assistant. He also crossed the road and continued walking without helping the man.”

Persaud Maharaj added that Paria did not act like the Good Samaritan in this matter, to do what it could to rescue the divers and provide comfort for their families.