Tuesday 7 April, 2020

FFOS slams emergency response for missing fishermen

FFOS spokesperson Gary Aboud said two more fishermen were found dead on Thursday morning, after an attack which forced fishermen to abandon their boats while at sea on Monday night.

The two men were part of a group of fishermen who were attacked at sea by armed men on Monday and forced to jump overboard after their vessels and engines were taken.

The names of the seven men who went missing at sea are Anand Rampersad, Brandon Kissoon, Hemraj Sooknanan, Jason Baptiste, Justin Baptiste, Leslie Dubulay, and Shiva Ramdeo.

In a statement issued Thursday, Aboud said Brandon Kissoon and Shiva Ramdeo’s bodies were discovered in the waters off Point Fortin between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard confirmed that the body of one fisherman was found between Wednesday and Thursday, but did not confirm the additional deaths and said another update would be issued later today.

Aboud commended private seafarers who continued the search for the missing fishermen but slammed the inefficiency of emergency responders.

“It’s regretted we did not have an Air Guard response on the first day when hypothermia would not have yet set in. The Coast Guard seem to be busier now, but it’s too late,” he said.

However National Security Minister Stuart Young said the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard had fixed-wing flight searches using its C26 aeroplane and both National Helicopters Services Limited and the Ministry of National Security’s Helicopters were deployed to search for the missing men.

Aboud, however, said that Young was misinformed. 

"The Minister of National Security, the Honorable Stuart Young is either misinformed or ill-advised. There was no air support, air guard or helicopter belonging to the Ministry of National Security that came to search for our fishermen on the first day they were lost at sea. The first 24 hours is most critical to find any survivors."

FFOS said that on Tuesday the group called the TTCG and was told that the vessel which was sent to search the area 'did not have the capacity'.

On Wednesday the group said it made a nation-wide plea for air support, and at 2:00 pm a helicopter arrived and 'circled a very small area in the Gulf of Paria in the vicinity of Orange Valley for 15 minutes and returned'.

Aboud said more must be done to protect the nation's fishermen.

"Enough is enough! When will we have a single prosecution and conviction for the spate of piracy threatening our fisherfolk?" Aboud said. 

Emergency responders are continuing the search; more as this story is updated.   

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