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Rescue-attempt divers in Paria tragedy: We were prepared to die - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

LMCS dive operator Andrew Farah testified at the Paria Commission of Enquiry (CoE) on Thursday that he and his team were willing to die to rescue their colleagues who were sucked into a 30-inch undersea pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre on February 27.

But he expressed frustration about continually being told he had to await approval from Paria officials to carry out rescue efforts, and being asked to get out of the water when he tried to carry out his plans despite being aware of the risks.

The CoE continued at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre.

On February 25, Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram – all LMCS employees – were doing maintenance at Berth 6, belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, Pointe-a-Pierre, when the incident occurred. Boodram was the only survivor.

Farah said LMCS drafted a method statement and a risk assessment for the retrieval from the pipeline of three scuba tanks which were causing obstructions. He said after this a camera would have been able to go further down the pipeline to assist with rescue efforts.

Pressed by Paria attorney Jason Mootoo, who suggested the only reason LMCS wanted to remove the tanks was to then remove the bodies of the men, as they did not think they were alive, Farah disagreed.

In his witness statement, Farah said he pleaded with Paria officials to give him and four other experienced divers at least one chance to attempt a rescue, as they believed the men were still alive.

[caption id="attachment_990136" align="alignnone" width="670"] Michael Kurban, whose father Fyzal Kurban was among the four men who died in an undersea pipeline in Pointe-a-Pierre on February 27. - AYANNA KINSALE[/caption]

Initially, his plan was to enter the riser pipeline with extra diving gear so he could try helping another diver back out. He said he would have used a tagline to communicate with those who remained at the habitat, and he planned to enter feet first.

Asked by CoE chairman Jerome Lynch if he was willing to risk his own life, he said, "I was."

Asked if he knew the "significant risks" that come with entering a pipeline under those conditions, he said he did.

He also said he could understand why Paria officials would be apprehensive about sending more people into the pipeline at the time.

Farah was said to be distraught, with his hands on his head, at the barge, worrying if the men were alive.

But with Boodram eventually being rescued, he said "new hope" was born.

However, he said members of the Coast Guard told them not to enter the pipeline when they were about to try their plan, on which he admitted he disobeyed Paria's instructions.

Some divers were already underwater and had to be called back up to the surface and the plan aborted.

But even as they called off this rescue, the Coast Guard members also said they themselves could not take over because they were not trained to enter pipelines.

Even when the divers secured verbal communication equipment, which included a 300-foot hose

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