Public Works Ministry probing “serious” Essequibo River boat mishap
– passengers traumatised after incident
The Public Works Ministry has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a vessel sinking in the Essequibo River thus leaving passengers traumatised.
A passenger boat en route to Supenaam started to take in water, reportedly due to overload. This resulted in all the passengers, including an infant and a toddler, being tossed into the water somewhere in the vicinity of Leguan.
Videos of the passengers seeking refuge under and in a tree at the shallow end of the river were shared on social media by a group of entertainers in the boat.
Public Works Minister Juan Edghill when contacted on Sunday stated that an investigation has already been launched into the incident.
“We have a Department of Safety [within the Public Works Ministry] that is addressing that. That is a serious incident, while nobody would have lost their lives it’s something that needs to be examined,” he explained.
According to the Minister, all aspects of the mishap will be looked into including reports of the boat being overloaded.
“If we have a captain of a boat taking in the overload that leads to a mishap, then of course that will be led to sanctions against him. But let us await the findings of the investigation and don’t just take what somebody said,” Edghill posited.
He further indicated that the probe is a routine one and should not take a long time.
“It is being done. The Department has a Director of Safety and a report should get to me within 24 hours or 36 hours, maximum,” the Public Works Minister stated.
Guyana Times understands that the passengers left the Parika Stelling in a boat that encountered mechanical issues thus resulting in the boat coming to a stop in the middle of the river. Sometime after, another vessel that was passing arrived and attempted to assist the stranded passengers but that vessel already had other passengers.
“I think the captain called for another boat but that boat showed up with passengers. So, with our full load and those passengers, the boat started to take in water. As he was moving, it started filling up more and more.”
“Then somebody said [to the captain] “Yo, start head to the corners.” And that’s when the boat captain start headed closer to the shore. Then a wave come – the boat was already low – and full the boat up with water,” local entertainer, Kwasi Ace Edmondson related to this newspaper.
Saving a baby and toddler
Edmondson recalled that a woman and her daughter were sitting next to him and after a heavy wave caused the boat to sink, he grabbed the child and placed her on its roof.
“Then I jump in the water and I feel the boat grounded. She [the toddler] would have definitely been covered because the water reached the boat roof. The boat submerged in the water,” he stated.
There was another infant – a baby – also in the boat. Another entertainer, Michael Ignatius assisted in carrying the baby from the sinking vessel and handed the infant over to a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) rank, who along with other passengers sought refuge in a tree in the shallow waters.
The soldier remained there with the child until another boat arrived to rescue them.
“We were a bit concerned if the tide would’ve raised before help arrived but it was panic at first. After I realised the boat grounded, I jump in the water and I tell everybody “Don’t panic, you’re safe. The boat grounded; nothing can’t happen no more.” But I know for sure that baby and that little girl could have died if we didn’t help. The mom was so concerned with the [toddler’s] life more than hers, she was saying “Save my baby!”,” Edmondson said.
Meanwhile, Chris Gopaul, another one of the comedians in the vessel and the one who initially shared videos from the incident on his Facebook page, took to social media to talk about the incident and how it has affected them.
“It’s almost 6am [on Sunday] I cannot find sleep, the show went on and I cannot be more grateful to the Almighty father for this silent hero that didn’t want anyone to know what he did,” he said of the boat captain who eventually went to the rescue of the passengers in the water.
He added, “We did a comedy show where everyone had fun and laughter without realising how traumatised the cast was. I say that something is wrong with me because I had no fear for I was at peace with whatever happened and then an overwhelming amount of phone calls from around the world came in and I came to the realisation that there is a possibility that we might not have existed today.”
“There’s so much to say. The main things that come to mind are thank u to the captain that made it to the bank of the river for if the boat went down before [reaching] the bank, the outcome would have been very different and thank you to the man… that came to our rescue with his staff and sought no reward… Material things mean nothing. People are a treasure,” Gopaul stated.