Father loses son at river, takes steps to save others

When 20-year-old De­vante Lal­la dis­ap­peared un­der the wa­ter while try­ing to save his younger broth­er from drown­ing at Three Pools, Blan­chisseuse, his broth­ers fran­ti­cal­ly searched for some­thing to toss in­to the wa­ter to save him. With noth­ing in reach, De­vante was not found un­til four hours lat­er when Coast Guard divers dis­cov­ered his body pinned un­der a log at the bot­tom of the riv­er.

With­in months of De­vante’s death on Au­gust 20, 2017, two oth­er young men—Isa­iah Mitchell and Ak­il Stafford, both aged 23—drowned at Three Pools. De­vante’s fa­ther, Den­nis Lal­la, his broth­ers and a small group of vol­un­teers came to­geth­er to put up cau­tion signs and life pre­servers at the pop­u­lar hik­ing des­ti­na­tion in north­ern Trinidad.

 

“My son re­al­ly chose a beau­ti­ful place to die,” 55-year-old Lal­la said on Thurs­day, perched on the rocks over­look­ing the serene wa­ter. “Some­times the beau­ty of this place can blind peo­ple from the dan­gers of the place.”

Lal­la still grieves deeply for his son. It takes strength for him and his two sons to leave their home in Ch­agua­nas and re­turn to the place where De­vante spent his fi­nal mo­ments. Lal­la moves cau­tious­ly along the trek, warn­ing oth­ers to tread care­ful­ly. He has a deep re­spect for the dan­gers of the hike. The ter­rain is most­ly flat and rocky, which makes it easy to for­get the risks posed by pro­trud­ing tree roots and slip­pery moss.

But nei­ther he nor his sons can muster the will to go in­to the wa­ter.

“My first trip here last year when we came to put the signs, it was an emo­tion­al one. It was an eerie feel­ing be­ing here, just see­ing where my son took his last breath. There was a feel­ing—I can’t re­al­ly de­scribe it. Right now my pores are rais­ing just speak­ing to you.”

Still, Lal­la pe­ri­od­i­cal­ly vis­its the site to check up on the signs and life pre­servers and to clean the area.

“We just saw it as the right thing to do. It was the hu­man thing to do. We see this as the heal­ing process. My two oth­er sons came with me when we put up these signs be­cause they were here when they wit­nessed their broth­er drowned and we just thought that was just part of them deal­ing with the tragedy,” he said.

“Maybe if we had things like this he would’ve been alive to­day. What I went through, I re­al­ly don’t want any oth­er par­ent to go through.”

His ef­forts helped save the life of at least one per­son so far, Lal­la said. How­ev­er, some vis­i­tors to the spot have been steal­ing the life rings, which is why Lal­la is now ap­peal­ing to the pub­lic to be con­sid­er­ate and re­place them af­ter use.

He takes so­lace in his be­lief that De­vante would be proud of their ini­tia­tive.

 - by Rishard Khan and Faine Richards

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