Paria witness cries under cross examination from CoE chairman

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Catherine Balkissoon, Paria’s technical lead, cries while giving evidence at the Commission of Enquiry into the deaths of four divers on February 25. – Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the Paria diving tragedy came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday morning as a witness burst into tears while being questioned by CoE chairman Jerome Lynch, KC.

Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were doing maintenance on a 30-inch pipeline at Berth 6, belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd, Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25. They were suddenly sucked into the pipeline. Boodram was the only survivor.

Paria’s acting technical lead Catherine Balkissoon was being asked about the company’s decision to prevent rescue divers from entering the pipeline.

She was asked if she believed Paria took “quick and urgent action,” especially as rescue divers were told to wait for five hours for a camera to arrive to go into the pipeline.

She said she believes the company acted quickly and urgently in assessing the risks of such a rescue attempt.

“Paria took action to say (to rescue divers): ‘Listen. Hold up. Are you sure you want to dive in there?’” she said.

“Someone’s life could (have been) lost, eh. It’s a balancing act.”

Lynch then said, “It might be a different balancing act if it were your father that was in the pipe or your son.”

Balkissoon, bursting into tears, said, “No, that’s not fair.”

Attorney Gilbert Peterson, who represents Paria, agreed Lynch’s comment was not fair.

“We on this side representing Paria have been respectful and sensitive (to witnesses)…It’s only fair that we extend the same respect to Paria’s witnesses.”

Lynch said it was not his intention to upset anyone, and he has been “meticulously trying to avoid doing that.”

He apologised to Balkissoon who asked him, “Do you know my father?”

Other attorneys in the room could be heard saying, “Terrible,” “Disgusting,” and “That was a snide comment.”

But Lynch continued, “But part of the risk analysis includes the person being willing to go into a pipeline.

“I cannot divorce myself from the fact that if it were my son, I might take a risk I wouldn’t of it were not my son.

“It’s a perfectly reasonable factor to take into account.”