PORT OF SPAIN – Five men clung to an Igloo cooler for dear life for about an hour Monday about two miles off the Port of Spain waterfront until they were rescued by the Coast Guard who had been stationed near the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
According to the Coast Guard, the men were aboard a Boston Whaler fishing vessel when, according to them, it became swamped by a large rogue wave, causing it to sink rapidly.
Coast Guard Lt Commander Kirk Jean-Baptiste told the Express Monday that at 3.45 p.m. he received a frantic phone call from a passenger aboard the water-taxi en route to San Fernando that had encountered the men holding on to the ice-box.
He was at the Hyatt at a preparatory meeting of the Twelfth Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas being hosted by Trinidad and Tobago and he was in one of the preparatory meetings.
The water-taxi stayed close to the men pending the rescue.
In the meantime, as passengers made frantic calls to the police one passenger contacted the Lieutenant Commander.
Two of the Coast Guard’s interceptors — 012 and 032 — were then sent out to sea to look for the men.
They were spotted just as the eyewitnesses said — clinging to the cooler.
The two interceptors were then used to bring the men back to shore on board one of the Coast Guard’s larger vessel (TTS Speyside) docked near the Hyatt and it was on board this vessel the men were medically examined.
The Express arrived on the scene shortly after their rescue and they identified themselves as Johnny Baldeo, Shiva Ramlochan, Shivanand Singh, Nirmal Ramlochan and Renwick Daniel.
According to Daniel, “A large swell swamped our boat and it start to take water.”
Ramlochan related, “We see we life going down, yuh know, but we tell each other that we not giving up.”
One of the rescued men, Renwick Daniel, told Express Multimedia that they cried fresh tears when they saw the ferry slow, turn and begin heading in their direction. “All of us started to talk. We thought we were going to die. All of us except one has wife and children, but everybody had their say”, Daniel told the Express on Tuesday.