PORT OF SPAIN –– Despite warnings to stay away from swollen watercourses in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret, one man is feared dead after a boat he was in overturned in the Godineau River yesterday.
Up to late yesterday, the missing man, who was only identified as Fly from Felicity, had not been found as coast guard searched the sea while fire officers scoured the river. There was also confusion over which policing division was investigating the incident, as both the Southern and South Western Division charged each other with the responsibility.
Sitting on the rocks near the Godineau Bridge, Suresh Goolcharan, 62, kept jumping at every object he saw floating out the river mouth, hoping it was Fly.
Goolcharan told the T&T Guardian that around 7 a.m., he, his cousin Manohar Goolcharan, 38, and Fly, all of Felicity, boarded his 14-foot flat bottom boat, which was moored in the New Cut Channel, San Francique. They journeyed down to the Godineau River and harvested several pounds of oysters in the mangroves near the Godineau Bridge. It was while returning to San Francique the boat hit a bank and capsized, throwing them into the deep water. With the water flowing quickly out to sea, the flow took them about a kilometre into the Gulf of Paria.
Goolcharan explained: “The boat engine hit the bank of the river and stuck, causing the boat to spin around and go down, and we went down with the boat. We could not fight the current so we started to drift.
“I told my cousin don’t fight the current, let us go with the current and when we reached outside there, we weren’t seeing this guy [Fly] anywhere. I thought he must have gone onto the bank already when we passed under the bridge, but when we came out, we didn’t see the man anywhere.”
For almost 45 minutes the Goolcharans drifted in the water until the current took them to a lower area and they were able to wade to the rocks along the Shore of Peace. Eventually, they met someone who contacted the Emergency Health Services. Fire officers from the Southern Division Headquarters were on the scene up the late yesterday searching the river mouth. Coast Guard divers searched the sea near the river mouth with the Air Guard giving aerial support.
Goolcharan said he has been harvesting oysters for 50 years and his son sells them in Port of Spain. He said he thought he would have died as the raging river pulled him under at least eight times. Manohar also began to tire and struggled to stay afloat.
“I felt I was going down and every time I fought and got back up. I can swim a bit so I drifted. I learned that you don’t fight the current, you go with it. I knew I could have made it, but I got really tired because it was a long distance. The water was deep and when it hit us out there, we felt a sand bank and we walked out. We came back calling this man but we could not see him anywhere.”
Although badly shaken, he said the job was how he made his living and he would have to return to the mangroves.