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Posted: Tuesday 31 August, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Eight escape watery grave

(L-R sitting) Harry Ramcharran, Eshwar Hanoman and captain of the vessel Davonan Sookram. (L-R standing)Timothy Trotz, Gerald Lovell, Junior Percival and Keroy Marcel.
By: Stanford Conway,

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – SEVEN men and a woman were giving praise and thanks to God yesterday (Aug. 30) for bringing them safely to St. Kitts, after the cargo vessel in which they were travelling was adversely affected by weather conditions caused by Hurricane Earl.


    The Cook Islands-registered vessel, Unique R1, had encountered engine problems during the passage of Hurricane Earl, causing it to drift and run aground upon a reef in the Caribbean Sea off the shores of the Southeast Peninsula.


    The captain of the steel hull 39 metres vessel, Davonan Sookram of Parika, East Bank Essequibo, Guyana, told SKNVibes that he and his seven-member crew had departed St. Maarten at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday (Aug. 29) for Trinidad but went adrift after encountering engine problems.


    “We left Guyana on August 17 for Trinidad and departed that island on Tuesday, August 24 bound for St. Maarten. We arrived at St. Maarten on August 27, and after we had completed our business there I attended a meeting and was given a document by the Harbour Master, which stated that a storm was approaching and the vessel had to leave the Port.


    “I informed the authorities that we had an engine problem but they insisted that we must leave the island or be fined US$150 000. We left there at 2:30 Sunday afternoon and at approximately 8:00 p.m. the problem worsened,” the captain said.


    He noted that they were in the territorial waters of St. Kitts and Nevis when the engine failed and the vessel started to drift amidst the stormy condition.


    “I used my cellular phone to call the Coast Guard in St. Kitts but I got no response. I then decided to call someone in St. Maarten to notify the St. Kitts’ Coast Guard and to give them the position of the vessel. I was informed that this was done but, yet again, there was no response. I used the VHF radio and sent out an SOS, but this also failed. So I finally decided to turn on the Search and Rescue Radar Transponder, which gives the exact location of a ship in distress to any vessel or aircraft with a GPS. However, this also proved futile as we prayed that someone would come to our rescue,” Sookram explained.


    Sookram further explained that he received a call from the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard at about 3:00 a.m. yesterday and he gave them all the necessary information, including the vessel’s position at that time. However, they did not turn up and the vessel continued to drift.


    “At 7:00 a.m. I was once again in contact with the Coast Guard and I informed them that we were approximately seven miles from the shores of St. Kitts. I also told them that we were drifting at about two knots per hour, but as we waited no rescue vessel turned up,” he added.


    Sookram said he dropped anchor at about 9:00 a.m. yesterday “but the water was too deep and we continued drifting towards land. The vessel drifted upon a reef and because of the more than three-metre high waves, it constantly slammed into the rocks. This action caused the vehicle to be damaged as it leaned on one side and started to take in water”.


    The captain said they abandoned ship and swam a short distance to the shore.


    “We had to walk over a mountain, which took us about three and a half hours before reaching an area where a hotel is being constructed. However, during our trek over the mountain, four of us, including myself, suffered minor injuries and had to be treated at the hospital,” Sookram said.


    He noted that the police was notified and they were driven from the Southeast Peninsula to the Basseterre Police Station, where they are currently accommodated.
    A successful effort was made last night by Guyana’s Honorary Consul to St. Kitts and Nevis to inform the government of Guyana and the agent for the shipping agency of the situation.


    SKNVibes has also learned that plans are afoot to salvage the vessel as well as to get the crew members back to their homeland.


    This media house contacted a senior officer of the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force concerning the allegations made by the vessel’s captain and was told that no assistance could have been offered to them because of the weather condition and the beaching of two of the Coast Guard’s vessels.


    Sookram informed SKNVibes that the vessel is owned by Suraj Ramnauth of Canada and among the seven-member crew are five Guyanese, Eshwar Hanoman, Timothy Trotz, Harry Ramcharran, Gerald Lovell and Junior Percival; one Grenadian, Keroy Marcel; and a female from Trinidad.


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