A group of Castara fishermen are now being called heroes after preventing a major fishing accident at Speyside yesterday.
The fishermen, led by Kibwe Walker, rescued the five-member crew of a 100-foot fishing boat that was drifting towards land after shutting down at sea for more than 12 hours.
Donald Ladee, who captains the distressed vessel, named the Alexandra, said he and his crew were fishing off the north coast of Trinidad when they encountered difficulty in the water.
“We were adrift since yesterday (Saturday) straight into last night until this morning. We tried calling the Coast Guard, we weren’t getting an answer, until about between 9 pm and 10 pm last night, when they said that they don’t have any boats that can help us.”
Ladee said he and his other four crew members were extremely worried and began reaching out to the media and anyone else who could assist. He said it was only when a fellow fisherman reached out to another fisherman at Castara around 3 am that they immediately agreed to “at least try and assist.”
Following the ordeal, Ladee said he was not only relieved but extremely grateful to the fishermen who didn’t hesitate to assist.
Rescue team leader Walker said if the fully-loaded deep-sea fishing vessel was left to drift to the coast, it would have been a major disaster not only for the owners of the vessel but for the environment, as the area is rocky and Speyside also has a coral reef. He said when his team got to the site, they discovered that an industrial sandbag was caught in the boat’s propeller and it had to be removed before restarting the boat’s engine. Walker said the 40-minute ordeal was challenging.
“We was getting about eight-foot swells, we could not go too close because my cousin, who was diving in the water, had to be careful because the boat was rising and falling with the waves. If he didn’t know what he was doing, it could have come down on his head.”
The diver who actually cut the sandbag free, Ojani Walker, described the effort as “unusual but something new to add to his list of accomplishments.”
Commenting on the incident, All-Tobago Fisherfolk Association vice president Junior Quashie said after mobilising the fishermen for the rescue mission, he too reached out to the Coast Guard and was told they would not be able to assist.
“This morning when I came down here, I heard fishermen in danger. I told the fishermen they have to go and they did and look at that, a 20-foot and a 40-foot (boat) went and the Coast Guard say their boat is too small.”
Guardian Media reached out to T&T Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer, Lt Kadijah Lamy, for a comment on the incident. Lamy asked that details surrounding the incident be sent, especially the number used by the captain of the vessel to contact the Coast Guard, noting that many times people call the wrong number. She promised to look into the incident and respond but there was no reply up to press time.