The search for fishermen Andrew Volman, who was forced to jump off his boat by gun-toting pirates, ended yesterday when his body washed ashore in La Brea.
This attack was one of at least three in the Gulf of Paria within a week, in which fishermen were forced overboard by pirates who stole their boats.
T&T Coast Guard personnel and fishermen carried out searches on Monday for 62-year-old Volman, who could not swim.
Police said sometime before 7 am yesterday, a pensioner was strolling along Station Beach in La Brea when he saw a body on the shoreline.
He notified the police and relatives subsequently identified Volman’s body.
Volman’s boat was found drifting in the Gulf of Paria minus its engine. Volman was with his cousin Konata Mabatano, who was also forced overboard but survived, during the attack.
In an interview on Monday, Mabatano, who was preparing to leave with a fellow fisherman to search for his cousin, recalled that he and Volman left King’s Wharf around 5 pm on Sunday.
Mabatano, a retired carpenter, sometimes went fishing with his cousin for fun and to get fish for his family.
“When is about 8 o’clock, that is the time the men and them come and make we jump overboard.”
He said Volman jumped first but he (Mabatano) was struck on his face with a gunbutt by one of the men.
“When we jump overboard my cousin jump so and when the men and them pointing gun at we and fighting up with the engine, I move the gun from one and snatch meh life jacket and I gone, dive out.”
He said he saw his cousin a distance away in the water. Scared that he was going to die, Mabatano said he kept swimming.
“I did done see death already, you know. Before that, I see machine guns and small gun pointing at me. I get lash in meh eye.”
As he struggled to stay afloat, he said he focused on returning home to his two grandchildren. When he got to shore in La Brea around 2.30 am, he tried to find the police station. Soaking wet and tired, he took up refuge at a panyard.
When he awoke, he asked someone to call the police and alert them about the incident.
Another fisherman, Clinton Lochan, complained that for years fishermen have been attacked and robbed at sea and they are fed up and tired.
He said fishermen who were lucky to survive their ordeals lose their livelihoods when their boats and engines are stolen.
“As far as I understand, when farmers plant crops and flood take their crops or worms take their crop, they does get compensation back from the Government.
“Why fishermen have to fall under this dog thing Government treating us with. Is not now this going on, is years this going on.”
Volman, a father of seven and grandfather of 16, lived alone in Pleasantville.
Trying to come to terms with her brother’s death, Laurel Wickham said he began fishing about three years ago and bought his boat with the money he received from National Insurance.
While she was scared for his safety at sea, she said Volman had no fear about fishing at night.
“That man did like the sea even though he could not swim. He never had the fear of being attacked,” Wickham said.
“They know people who get held up and he never had the fear. I had the fear for him knowing that people get kill and thing out there.”
Despite the circumstances, she said they were still praying that he would be found alive.
“Some kind of GPS system should be there, the Coast Guard suppose to be out there looking after people because people losing their life,” she lamented.
National Security Minister meets with fishermen
Meanwhile, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds has met with the Carli Bay and Claxton Bay Fishing Association. The meeting was held at the ministry’s building in Port-of-Spain and attended by various security experts, including the Coast Guard and T&T Police Service’s Coastal and Riverine Unit.
Carli Bay Fishing Association president Imtiaz Khan said they presented the minister with recommendations they would have submitted to his predecessor.
Following discussions, he said they agreed to create a database to give to the police and Coast Guard, including a detailed description of their fishing vessels.
Khan said they discussed informing the Coast Guard when and where they will be fishing and about putting proper lights at the landing sites and using flares.
“So like if we in distress, we use the flares. They also made a commitment to train us in terms of the different types of flares and the one we could use in daylight and the one we could use at night.”
He said the TTPS Riverine Unit will be assisting with patrols. Khan said the creation of a central hub for the Riverine Unit, or the Coast Guard near Plipdeco was also discussed.
“We welcome the whole Riverine Unit, where they will be more on the inside, closer to the coastline in terms of the response.”
On the issue of GPS, he said this would be a long term measure where GPS will be made mandatory on all fishing vessels. He thanked Hinds for his quick response to their concerns.
“We have to do our part and they have to do their part and hope that we achieve the goal we working towards which is fishing safe at sea.” (See editorial on page 12)
Last Thursday around 1.30 am, five gunmen intercepted a 28-foot pirogue-named ‘Tristan, Jeron & Nicholai’, registered TFV 5250, about two miles off the Claxton Bay port.
As three of the gunmen boarded the boat, captain Desmond Belfast, 43, jumped overboard and began swimming to shore. He sought refuge from a passing vessel.
The gunmen escaped with the $65,000 boat, 50 pounds of fishing nets and catch. The engine is valued at $55,000.
In another incident, fishermen Taradath Balkaran, 36 and Sonnilal Basaraj, 63, reported that around 8.45 pm last Wednesday, they were one and half miles off Otaheite Bay, South Oropouche, when three men, one with a firearm, held them up. They were ordered to jump overboard and the men escaped with the boat.