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Luke Pascall consoles drowning survivor Narisha Ramkissoon at fire officer Stephen Marcano’s Gasparillo home yesterday. Marcano was trying to rescue Ramkissoon when he drowned on Sunday.

After his brother drowned as a child, fire officer Stephen Marcano never liked bathing in the sea and didn’t know how to swim. But when he saw his niece being swept away by strong currents at Mayaro on Sunday, he ran into the water to save her and drowned.

Marcano, 39, who was last attached to the Savonetta Fire Station, was celebrating his wife’s 31st birthday with family and friends at the beach at Vicks Avenue, Guayaguayare.

Through her tears at their Gasparillo home yesterday, his grief-stricken wife Patrice said usually, her husband would take her out of the country for her birthday but due to COVID-19 they could not leave.

“My husband was a hard-working person. My husband came from work and he carry me to have a good time. I did not expect none of this,” the grieving wife said.

According to a police report, Marcano disappeared in the water around 5.30 pm after he went to help some people in difficulty. His body resurfaced a short distance away a few minutes later. Relatives said about five family members got into difficulty around the same time.

Marcano’s 14-year-old son Kareem recalled that he was in knee-height water when the current got stronger and he saw his cousin drifting out to sea. She was calling out for help.

“The girl was drifting away and I saw my father come into the water. He had just finish eating, he came into the water to save the girl. He save the girl.”

Realising that his father was also drifting out into the deep, Kareem said he called out to him to come back while he made his way to the shore. However, when he came out he did not see his father.

Survivor Narisha Ramkissoon, 22, one of Marcano’s other nieces, recalled that she was in waist-height water when a big wave came out of nowhere.

“When this wave struck my feet I just came off the floor and I was trying to recover and I just feel like the current pulling me and I am trying to swim and paddle out but the more I move the further it just kept carrying me into the ocean.”

She said her younger cousin was also in difficulty and she was trying to keep her calm.

“I was telling her don’t paddle, try to float on your back but it was so strong, the current and the waves, that every time you try to float something would just come and hit you on your face,” Ramkissoon said.

With water in your nose and eyes, Ramkissoon said her feet could not reach the ocean floor and she kept dipping under the water. She said she believed she was going to die, especially since she could no longer see the shore.

“I was trying to stay calm but at some point in time, I start screaming for help. I was like why God, why I have to go? I don’t want to go.”

She said a stranger eventually came and saved her.

Marcano’s brother-in-law, Like Pascall, recalled how he saved his other niece but at some point, he too thought he would not survive because the “current was real bad.”

As she cried out in grief, Patrice said, “He went for my niece. He just hold my niece. He just give my brother my nieces and then I haven’t seen him. I don’t know where he disappear. I kept on calling him.”

When Marcano’s body resurfaced and they pulled him out to the sand, someone tried to resuscitate him.

“Many times I call the ambulance, the ambulance never show. Is somebody on the beach take up my husband in a van and carry him. I am thankful to those people,” his wife said.

Marcano was taken to the Mayaro District Health Facility where he was pronounced dead.

“He did anything for me and my kids. We meant the world to him. I don’t even know how to put on my own machine without my husband.”

Marcano’s 72-year-old mother Shirley Bass said she lost the youngest of her five children in similar circumstances about 20 years ago. He drowned when he was 15 years. As a result, she said her son would go to the beach with his family but he never liked the sea. While he preferred to bathe in a swimming pool, she said her son never learnt to swim.

Describing him as a selfless person, Bass said he would always put people in front of himself. She believes, however, that her son would be alive had there been lifeguards patrolling the beach.

“Being a holiday, it should have had lifeguards positioned on the beach so that people would not get into these sort of difficulties.

“Yea it was heroic because he could not stand and look at the child go down so he tried his best to do what he thought was best but I still put some fault in them not having some lifeguards. They would have been able to have save him or even self the child and he would not have had to go in there.”

Marcano’s other son is 11 years. In a Facebook post yesterday, the T&T Fire Service Association – Second Division stated: “Fire Officers are usually looked to as heroes, #4226 FF Stephen Marcano was no different, gave his life to save others.”

On behalf of its management, members and Staff, the association extended their deepest condolences to his family, friends and officers of the Savonetta Fire Station.