Not so, LMCS.
Even as the probe begins on the recent tragedy involving four divers at Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd, a war of words has erupted after the divers’ LMCS employer lodged accusations against Paria – and Paria rebutted the claims yesterday.
LMCS divers Fazal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry and Kazim Ali Jr tragically lost their lives following an incident on February 25 at Paria’s Pointe-a-Pierre facility. A fifth diver, Christopher Boodram, survived.
The men, who were doing maintenance on a pipeline, were sucked into the line after an incident occurred. Bodies were recovered last week. The Energy Ministry subsequently announced an independent team to probe the matter. Work is expected to begin this week.
Yesterday, LMCS, owned by Kazim Ali Jr’s father, Kazim Ali Sr, accused Paria and the T&T Coast Guard of blocking rescue attempts for the divers.
However, Paria’s board headed by Newman George rebutted the accusations hours later and detailed the situation, continuing to extend condolences to divers’ families.
Apart from those facts, the board also noted LMCS’ previous statements agreeing with Paria’s February 27 release where LMCS stated it had been working closely with Paria “from the beginning of the incident to reach our divers.”
LMCS had added, “The Paria team has been fully supportive throughout this process and continues to provide all its resources to support our efforts, including people, capability and equipment.”
Paria further cleared up claims about communication with divers’ families.
The board stated, “This has been a profound loss for the families, their employer LMCS Limited, Paria, and indeed, the entire country. Understandably, there has been much said about this incident. Unfortunately, the majority of what has been said with respect to the role of Paria, is not only inaccurate but also unjust.
“It is Paria’s considered view that it was not appropriate at any time prior, to engage in any discourse which would unnecessarily distract from this tragedy and its impact on the families involved. However, given the decision by LMCS to issue what can only be described as an unfortunate release, Paria is now compelled to provide clarity on certain issues.
Paria detailed the following timeline:
* Since June 2021, LMCS has been engaged in the maintenance project with respect to the 30” pipeline located at No. 36 Sealine Riser on Berth No. 6 at the Paria facility.
* Prior to commencement of this project, the pipeline was inactive – since even before Paria commenced operations in December 2018 – and it would remain inactive until the project was completed.
* It is therefore important to note there is no pipe connection mechanism, machinery, or equipment whatsoever connected to the section of pipeline under repair, so nothing could have been switched on or activated by Paria, to change the condition of the pipeline while the project was being undertaken by LMCS.
* Friday’s incident occurred around 2.45 pm while five divers were working in LMCS’ hyperbaric chamber and were being monitored by LMCS employees on a nearby barge when a splash was observed within LMCS’ hyperbaric chamber and concurrently, video from the cameras within the chamber ceased operating.
* Upon being notified of the incident by LMCS, Paria immediately activated its Incident Management Team.
* Paria also contacted emergency response organisations, including T&T Coast Guard, the T&T Fire Service, Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSH) and the South West Regional Health Authority.
* Dive support operators – Mitchell’s Professional Diving Services Company Limited and Offshore Technology Solution Limited – were also contacted. Further assistance was sought from Eastern Divers Company Limited. The external service providers arrived at various times on Friday evening to assist the rescue effort.
* The Commercial Diver Operations Supervisor from Heritage Petroleum Company Limited was also on-site to support the Incident Command Team.
* Paria was informed by the owner of LMCS, Kazim Ali, that his company would notify the families of its five employees.
* As part of its emergency response plan, LMCS launched a search and rescue operation.
* An LMCS employee entered the hyperbaric chamber and advised there was no sign of the divers or the dive cylinders.
* Paria’s marine security supported the search with vessels, focused on the waters surrounding both the LMCS hyperbaric chamber and the pipeline.
* Approximately three hours after start of the rescue operation, it was reported a sound was heard from inside the pipeline.
* Christopher Boodram, one of the five divers, was found in scuba gear as he surfaced at the top of the pipeline within LMCS’s hyperbaric chamber.
* Boodram was pulled out from the top of the pipeline by Michael Kurban, a diver assisting LMCS in its operations.
* Boodram was stabilised and rushed to the hospital for treatment. Paria’s Incident Management Team was informed of Boodram’s rescue at 5.45 pm.
* Paria was advised Kurban entered the pipeline on more than one occasion in an attempt to locate other divers and was only able to retrieve some diving equipment. No further divers were found.
* Kurban later contemplated other entries which would have involved him proceeding further into the pipeline.
* It was determined by Paria – and supported by the Coast Guard, the OSH Agency and external experts – that it was too dangerous for anyone to proceed further into the pipeline without posing significant risk to life.
* It is important to note that the vertical drop from the hyperbaric chamber to the seabed is approximately 60 feet within a 30” diameter pipe.
*By way of video footage from a remotely operated camera sent down into the pipeline, it was discovered at approximately 80 feet, tanks were wedged against the wall of the pipeline as it ran along the seabed, creating an obstruction which prevented the remote camera from proceeding any further and locating any of the divers.
Families informed of recovery bid Feb 26
Paria management said on February 26 between 6 pm to 9 pm, its management informed the families of the deceased LMCS divers that the exercise had moved from a rescue to a recovery operation.
“Given the complexities and sensitivities associated with this incident, continued misinformation, speculation and wild allegations only serve to further increase the trauma and hurt of all of those involved, which includes the grieving families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives, along with those who were involved in the rescue and recovery efforts.”
Paria noted the independent probe announced by the Energy Ministry to ascertain the facts and the incident’s root cause.
“Certainly, Paria will provide any and all of the relevant details, documentation and recordings, and participate fully in the process. We ask that we all await the outcome of the investigations before arriving at any further conclusions.”