A LIMERICK woman has told a Commission of Inquiry into the death of her son in an undersea pipeline, that her husband and others were prevented from carrying out a rescue by a Trinidad and Tobago State-owned fuel trading company.
Catherine Ali, from Roxboro Road in Limerick, is the mother of Kazim Ali Jr, who along with three other divers, drowned in a 30-inch pipe, on a site owned by the Paria Fuel Trading Company, at Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago, in February, 2022.
Lawyers representing some of the victims families have claimed the divers died in the pipe because of inaction and delay by Paria. The company denies the claims.
A fifth member of the diving party, Christopher Boodram, escaped from the pipe and told those on the surface to immediately organise a rescue because the other four men were alive, the Commission heard.
The five divers were employed by LMCS Ltd, a company owned by Catherine Ali’s husband, Kaz Ali Sr, who had jointly run the business with their son Kazim Jr, who was an Irish citizen.
LMCS was contracted by Paria to perform maintenance works on a 30-inch underwater pipe on February 25 when the five experienced divers were sucked into the pipe as water moved from a high-pressure to low-pressure area.
A State coroner found that Kazim Ali Jr may have been alive as late as midnight February 26. However a second autopsy, organised by the Ali family, concluded that he may have been alive until midnight, February 27.
In her evidence to the Commission, Catherine Ali said some of the divers communicated distress calls inside the pipeline by tapping on it well into Saturday, February 26, “demonstrating proof of life”.
Ms Ali said that despite several dive vessels and volunteer divers traveling to the site to help rescue the men from the pipe, Paria refused to allow the rescue to proceed.
She said LMCS offered three rescue plans on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Paria continued to seek rescue dive permits and further clarity about the rescue plans.
Paria’s “deliberate delay, generated friction, anguish and torture” for the men and their families, Mrs Ali said.
“There was no leadership, preparedness or morality in Paria’s decisions that killed four LMCS men who waited excruciatingly in the pipe until they could breathe no more.”
Senior Counsel for Paria, Gilbert Peterson argued that the company’s actions “were entirely reasonable in the light of the range of options open to it.”
He added there was “no reasonable basis for Paria to be faulted or to bear any liability”.
Attorney for LMCS, Kamini Persaud-Maraj said Paria could have hired a project engineer/consultant with the requisite expertise to advise in the execution of this contract, but it chose not to.
“Saving the dollar for the cost of lives. That is what this decision comes down to. Instead of acting on proof of life, Paria chose to discredit the knocking heard emanating from the pipe, saying it was noise from equipment running a distance of a quarter mile away,” he added.
The Commission of Inquiry’s final report is due to be submitted to the President of Trinidad and Tobago by April 30.