LMCS: Paria, TTCG prevented potential rescue; Paria: Allegations unjust and contradict earlier LMCS statement

EPL Infrafred Sauna

LMCS Limited: ‘[…] At all material times, we were prevented from executing this rescue by Paria and the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. We were not given the chance to save the lives of our employees…’

Paria Fuel: ‘[…] With respect to the allegation that Paria was uncooperative during the rescue exercise, […] we acknowledge LMCS’ contribution to the Paria release of 27 February 2022, which reads as follows: We have been working closely with Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd (Paria) from the beginning of the incident to reach our divers. 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…’

The following is a media statement from LMCS Limited on the death of its four divers during a work exercise on 25 February 2022, and the response from Paria Fuel Trading Company:

Photo: Divers Christopher Boodram, Fyzal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry and Kazim Ali Jr set out on a job.
When tragedy struck the LMCS-employed quintet in a Paria pipeline on Friday 25 February 2022, only Boodram (far left) survived.

(LMCS Ltd statement)

On Friday 25 February 2022, tragedy struck on the No 36 Sea Line Riser on Berth No 6 at Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited, Pointe-a-Pierre. At the time, LMCS Limited was executing work it was contracted to perform by Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited.  

This horrific incident led to the death of four of our dedicated employees: Yusuf Henry, Fyzal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar and Kazim Jeremiah Ali, the only son of our managing director (Kazim Ali). 

A fifth employee, Christopher Boodram, survived but suffered severe injuries.

LMCS has been concentrating its efforts on comforting the families who lost their loved ones and providing support to them during this period of unimaginable grief. The impact of this incident on our LMCS staff has been devastating. LMCS has made available to all members of the deceased families, as well as to Mr Boodram, professional services to address their state of mind and the anguish that has been visited upon them as a result of this incident. 

These services have also been made available to all of our employees. LMCS has undertaken to cover the burial costs for Yusuf Henry, Fyzal Kurban and Rishi Nagassar.

Photo: A commercial diver on the job.

Those who were responsible for this tragedy that led to the death of our employees and the serious injuries to Mr Boodram must be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof. The public interest requires no less. 

The families who lost their loved ones deserve no less. LMCS will be satisfied with no less. To this end, LMCS has retained, at its own cost, the services of a specialist pathologist to undertake private autopsies for all of the deceased.

In addition, since this incident, LMCS has been in the process of gathering all of the relevant evidence in order to provide international experts who are being retained by LMCS to determine the cause of this national disaster and to ascertain who was responsible for the deaths of our employees or the decisions that led to their deaths.

From the time that LMCS was made aware of the loss of contact with our divers on 25 February 2022, our singular aim was the rescue of our employees. We not only had the manpower and personnel to carry out their rescue, but we provided Paria with the methodology to execute the rescue. 

At all material times, we were prevented from executing this rescue by Paria and the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. We were not given the chance to save the lives of our employees.  

Photo: Paria Fuel Trading CEO Mushtaq Mohammed.

The effect of those decisions prevented us from attempting to rescue our employees and those who made those decisions must be held accountable for them and must justify those decisions, not only to the families, but to the public and to the authorities that are responsible for the enforcement of the law.

LMCS expresses gratitude and appreciation to our employees who have been a tower of strength during this tragedy. LMCS wishes to express heartfelt thanks to every single member of the public who offered their support and prayers during this period of time. 

In the interest and honour of those who lost their lives, we must demand that steps are taken to ensure that a disaster of this nature never repeats itself—where there are shortcomings, they must be remedied. 

We must demand that those who are responsible for the deaths of Yusuf, Fyzal, Rishi and Kazim Jr are held to account for their inactions and actions.

(Paria Fuel statement)

Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited (Paria) first and foremost extends sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of Fazal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry and Kazim Ali Jr—the four divers who so tragically lost their lives following a work incident on Friday 25 February 2022 at Paria’s facility in Pointe-à-Pierre.

Photo: Paria Fuel Trading chairman Newman George.
(Copyright Paria Fuel)

This has been a profound loss for the families, their employer LMCS Limited (LMCS), 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. 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 the commencement of this project, the said pipeline had been inactive since even before Paria commenced operations in December 2018, and it would remain inactive until the project was completed. 

Photo: A commercial diver emerges from the water in scuba gear.

It is therefore important to note that 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 at around 2:45pm 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’s 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 the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service, Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), 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 with the rescue effort. The Commercial Diver Operations supervisor from Heritage Petroleum Company Limited was also on site to support the Incident Command Team. 

Photo: A T&T Coast Guard vessel.

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 that 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 the start of the rescue operation, it was reported that a sound was heard from inside the pipeline. Mr 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. 

Mr Boodram was pulled out from the top of the pipeline by Mr Michael Kurban, a diver who was assisting LMCS in its operations. Mr Boodram was stabilised and rushed to the hospital for treatment. 

Paria’s Incident Management Team was informed of Mr Boodram’s rescue at 5:45pm. Paria was advised that Mr 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. 

Photo: A commercial diver enters the water.
(via Divers Institute)

Mr 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 that at approximately 80 feet, tanks were wedged against the wall of the said 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. 

With respect to the allegation that Paria was uncooperative during the rescue exercise, apart from what is set out above, we acknowledge LMCS’ contribution to the Paria release of February 27th 2022, which reads as follows: 

‘We have been working closely with Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd (Paria) from the beginning of the incident to reach our divers. 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.’ 

Photo: Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

With regard to informing the families of the deceased LMCS divers that the exercise had moved from a rescue to a recovery operation, this was done by Paria’s management on Saturday 26 February 2022 between the hours of 6pm to 9pm. 

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. 

On Monday 28 February 2022, the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries announced that there would be an independent investigation into this incident to ascertain the facts and the root cause of the incident. 

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. 

Photo: A commercial diver conducts maintenance work.

Paria wishes to express its very deep gratitude to all who participated in the very difficult rescue and, later, recovery exercise. 

We again unreservedly extend our deepest condolences and our thoughts are with the families, colleagues and loved ones at this extremely devastating time.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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One comment

  1. It requires no special intelligence to see that there is mischief afoot here.
    We have to ask ourselves why LMCS changed its tune. The answer is easy to find if you watch the television report of Monday 7 March.

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