Vanessa Kussia, the wife of diver Rishi Nagassar, broke down in tears and was inconsolable outside the Forensic Science Centre (FSC) in St James yesterday, after she realised that her husband’s body was not amongst the three bodies recovered on Monday following the diving tragedy that occurred off Pointe-a-Pierre last Friday.
Accompanied by other relatives, Kussia went to the FSC early yesterday hopeful that her husband’s body was among those recovered. However, it turned out that he was still missing and the Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited (Paria) was continuing with operations to recover him.
The three divers recovered were identified as Yusef Henry, Fyzal Kurban and Kazim Ali Jr. Their bodies were positively identified by family members at the FSC yesterday.
However, due to the mangled state of the bodies from the trauma they experienced in the pipeline, family members had to use alternative means to identify them.
Henry was identified by a tattoo on the chest that said “Outlaw,” by his father Joseph Henry.
Kurban was identified by his wife Celisha via a watch he was wearing and Ali Jr’s body was identified by a jersey he had on at the time.
Apart from being severely distorted/disfigured, Guardian Media was told the bodies were also still mostly covered in crude oil.
There were mixed emotions among family members outside the FSC yesterday. Some were seen crying uncontrollably and being comforted by their relatives.
Henry’s father, Joseph, after identifying his son’s body, emerged from the building looking up to the sky and clapping loudly. He then sat on a concrete bench where he cried, eventually calming himself.
“We’ve come to closure now. Yusef is dead. May God bless his soul, Joseph said.
“All the other men, may God bless their souls and may the family and children of these men be protected by God Almighty.
“And you guys and T&T, I am warning all you that the rain fall on my house now, but it go fall on all yuh house. If we stay as a separate and a hateful nation, we will die one by one.”
He added, “They (officials) warned us that what we are going to see. I walked in and he was there. My son has tattoos in parts of his body, neck, chest, arms. The first one I saw was on his chest. It mark ‘Outlaw’ on his chest. I know well for sure that is my son. But when I watch that face, it was black like night, disfigured.”
Henry said on Saturday he felt good in his heart to see how many people had come out to support them. However, he further explained that at the same time, he felt so hurt that a multi-million dollar company could not have given them any word.
“Not even a bottle of water. But they on the radio and TV. Mr (Stuart) Young came and talk to us but did he talk to me? Where was the conversation I had with Mr Young. But he didn’t talk to the Henry family. It was just a cordial thing. I tell him he looking young and that was it, he went on and talk to the others,” Henry said with tears in his eyes.
“This morning I had a bottle of wrath to drink. And right now I remain a God-fearing person. I remain a loving man in my heart for everybody. And I want T&T to know, we need to get up and stand up for one another.”
He said he now has nine grandchildren to take care and added that Yusef was his third child to have died in months.
“One of my sons died from cancer and the other from comorbidities.”
Michael Kurban, who was the diver who rescued the lone survivor, Christopher Boodram, was also present at the FSC.
Kurban is the son of deceased diver Fyzal.
In a brief interview, Kurban called for justice and for the truth to prevail in this situation.
“Me and my other two divers, we worked together to save him, not me alone,” Kurban recalled.
“When I dive that day it was just to rescue everyone. We wanted to rescue all the guys but the higher authorities, Paria management, they give orders and Coast Guard came after and stop us from continuing diving.
“They didn’t let us. They said we had no authority to continue diving but it’s on my mind all the time right now. I’m trying to sleep but Paria need to get their facts straight cause it seems like they lying to the media and it’s just false information.
“You need to talk to Christopher Boodram. He will explain everything to y’all. I’m keeping in contact with his family but I haven’t heard from him directly since.”
Fyzal’s wife, Celisha, who was also very emotional after viewing her husband’s body, spoke of how she and her husband were inseparable.
“We drank coffee together. He never once quarrelled with the children and they are in their 30s and 20s. Anything they wanted he said go ahead,” Celisha said.
“He dive all over the Caribbean, in St Lucia, St Martin, Tobago, he helped them dredge the port in Tobago for the big ships to come in. He worked everywhere in the Caribbean. He’s been diving since the 90s. What they were to do Saturday they didn’t do,” she added.
Celisha disclosed that the autopsies were yet to be done as they needed to identify and swab the men for COVID-19.
Ali’s family members, who were also at the FSC, did not speak to the media present.
Nagassar’s uncle, councillor Allan ‘Taxi’ Seepersad, lamented that the company did not have the courtesy to call the families and say that they had found three bodies and waiting for the last one.
“It was someone who heard it online called my niece and she told us. When she received that call she fainted away,” Seepersad said.
“But I want to say justice has to take place. And it is unfair to know the family going through this trying times. I was there since Friday afternoon. The security, when we went, had no clue, no information of what happened. We went back Saturday, spent night till Sunday and no information.”
Seepersad said the family was also promised several things by Energy Minister Stuart Young.
“He promised things would be put in place and establish communication but nothing was done up to last night (Monday), we running from gate to car park over and over,” he said.
“The company and the Government, the Minister and the Prime Minister and even the President, if she has a heart to know what this family is going through, what this nation is going through, and to shake up the company and shake up the Government. They have families frustrated. Imagine police and regiment brought to where we have sorrow and all we doing is asking for information,” he added.
Seepersad said Nagassar’s three-year-old child kept calling for her father.
“And whole weekend they just have us in the dark. They sending press release but telling us nothing and we held out hope eh. Up to this morning, sun above me, we had hope,” he said.
Up to this moment we still eh say accept it. We haven’t said this is the end of Rishi but we call him Ryan.
“I want to say to the Prime Minister and the Energy Minister and the management of Paria to know that when children’s tears fall, judgement is right there and we have to pay for that.”
In a statement yesterday, the Occupational Safety and Health Authority and Agency (OSHA) said it was investigating the matter independently.
It said that at approximately 4 pm on Friday (February 25), the OSH Agency received notification from Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited of an accident in which five divers employed by the contractor LMCS became trapped inside of one of the company’s pipelines while performing maintenance works. The accident, it noted, resulted in four fatalities.
The agency said that it immediately responded to the report and was led by its Chief Inspector, who attended the scene of the accident immediately upon notification.
“The agency has already initiated its own investigation into this accident in the context of the duties and requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act Chapter 88:08 and to seek to determine the cause,” OSHA said.
“OSHA extends its sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased and remains committed to fostering the protection of the safety and health of all persons in workplaces in Trinidad and Tobago and compliance with the OSH Act,” it added.