17 persons narrowly escaped after passenger, fuel boats collide in Essequibo River

…captain “wasn’t paying attention” – injured woman, license suspended

By Amar Persaud

Some 17 persons, including school children, were rescued after the water taxi in which they were travelling on the Essequibo River crashed into a fuel supply vessel at about 17:00h on Tuesday.
This accident was allegedly caused by negligence on the part of the boat captain, whose licence has since been suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation.
The water taxi was journeying from Supenaam in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) to Parika in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) when the collision occurred in the vicinity of Wakenaam Island.
The passenger boat began to take in water, and was submerged within a minute. The passengers, some of whom were reportedly not wearing life jackets, were eventually rescued by another vessel and taken to the Parika Stelling.
One of the passengers, 29-year-old Rubyanna Alleyne, told this publication that, just before the accident occurred, the vessel was negotiating a turn but the boat captain was not focusing.
“The captain of the boat slowed down to talk to a next boat that was apparently in the river having a problem… When he finished talking to the person, he continued his journey, but apparently he was still looking back at the boat that he stopped to talk to…and around the turn it has islands, and the other side, the fuel vessel boat was coming from Parika… When he looked forward, he was already into the boat,” the passenger recalled.
According to her, the bowman was at the back of the boat chatting with the captain when the accident occurred.
“At the front [of the boat], you could have noticed [the other approaching vessel] but the two sides, you couldn’t have noticed because the leatherettes were down, but the front was open…so, the three said passengers could’ve seen in front,” she reasoned.
Alleyne said that when she realised a collision was about to occur, she started to scream.
“The captain could have stopped the incident, but he wasn’t paying attention, he was paying attention to the other boat that he was talking with,” the passenger contended.
According to the woman, she was the only person injured in the incident. She is currently suffering from a fractured right arm and other minor injuries.
“The impact hit me from the side, because I was at the said side where the boat collided too,” the woman explained.
Alleyne, who sells Brazilian cosmetic products, said she would normally do delivery to Supenaam by boat. She explained that in usual travels, three persons would be seated in a row to a seat, but yesterday it was around four. In her opinion, the boat was overloaded.
Additionally, she claimed that there were not enough safety jackets for everyone.
“I didn’t get any life jacket from Supenaam, and that wasn’t normal, but apparently he didn’t calculate for the children that was in the boat that had on big life jacket…I request a life jacket before the boat leave the stelling…the bowman didn’t assist me with any…,” she lamented.
According to the woman, she suffered $65,000 in losses as a result of the accident.

Licence temporarily suspended
Contacted for a comment on the situation, Director of Maritime Safety at the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), Captain John Flores, explained that that vessel’s captain has already had his licence temporarily suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation.
He noted that, depending on the outcome, the boat captain’s licence could be permanently taken away.
“If it’s overloaded, it’s automatic suspension under the regulation, but I have to verify. The people who are investigating, they will look at all of that…if the investigations reveal life jackets and them things [were not available], it can go as far as taking away his licence or something like that, not quite sure yet…,” he noted.
Investigations are ongoing.