LAUREL V WILLIAMS and JULIEN NEAVES
RELATIVES of three fishermen still missing at sea are continuing to hope for the best but expecting the worst, as the bodies of four friends have been found since the brutal attack by pirates on Monday night.
As at press time, three men —Alex Sooknanan, 18, Jason "Trevor" Baptiste, 30, and Justin Kissoon, 19–remained missing.
So far, the bodies of Kissoon’s cousin Brandon "Curry" Kissoon, 21, Anand Rampersad, 39, Shiva "Aries" Ramdeo, 27, and Leslie De Boulet were found. Except for De Boulet, the men live at Orange Valley. De Boulet lived at Carapichaima and worked at Carli Bay.
Rampersad’s body washed ashore on Wednesday morning at the Gulf of Paria off Orange Valley. He was stabbed several times. Between Wednesday night and yesterday morning, the three other bodies were found floating in the southwestern peninsula at La Brea, Point Fortin and Cedros.
One of Ramdeo’s uncles, Rajesh Lalchan, told Newsday the deaths were devastating to everyone.
"It was hard at the beach site this morning. Aries’ mother and father are talking to police for about two hours. His mother (Nazeema) did not know herself earlier. She was at the beach when she got the news, and everybody was crying. No one can sleep."
Lalchan was at the family’s home at Lalla Street. Even in grief, he said he felt sorry for other families who are waiting for the missing men to resurface.
The Kissoon cousins, of Mc Bean Village in Couva, were too traumatised to speak.
One resident of Carli Bay described De Boulet, who lived at Carapichaima, as a humble and caring man. De Boulet, the resident said, loved the sea and had taken time off because of robberies over the years.
The group of fishermen were beaten and thrown overboard by men armed with guns and knives. The bandits stole their boat engines which were later recovered by police at Sea Lots.
Five men —Robbie "Bope" Jaggernath, Brian "Lizard" Seemungal, Dillon "Duggie" Mendoza and Danesh "Mindy" Sankar and Pradeep "One-eye" Samaroo — survived the ordeal.
"In all my years living here, this is the worst attack ever happened. Mindy and his crew survived because the gunmen were having trouble taking out the engine. One pointed a gun and told them to take it out. They were planassed and their lives spared," said one resident who requested anonymity.
At the Orange Valley fishing bay, scores of residents and relatives gathered and waited for updates from search teams. A tent was placed on the bay which shielded people from the sun.
At Jaggernath’s home, a relative said after being beaten, he swam and held on to a net until villagers rescued him at about 2.30 am on Tuesday.
Mendoza, another survivor, was not at home because he was giving Couva police a statement. According to relatives, there was yet another survivor whom they identified as Adrian Mc Leod.
National Security Minister Stuart Young, speaking yesterday at the post-Cabinet media briefing, said there has been a lot of misinformation regarding “this heinous crime" by a lot of people without access to information, and added that he had heard statements from Fishermen and Friends of the Sea secretary Gary Aboud.
He said as soon as the Coast Guard was told about the incident at 3 am on July 23, ships left from Staubles Bay, and during the day aerial cover was provided. He also said the National Helicopter Services Ltd was utilised for search efforts.
Young said, unfortunately out of seven missing fishermen four bodies have been found and he described it as a great tragedy. He confirmed that the attack was done by locals and told the "mischief makers" that as much assets as were available were deployed.
He said reports that there was no fuel for the Coast Guard vessels or the plane were complete misinformation.
"We did do all that we can."
He expressed condolences to the families and said every loss of life in TT affects him. He said police had located engines in the Sea Lots area and were pursuing investigations.
Young said the type of incidents is not new and fishermen have been the subject of criminal activity for some time. He said the government was looking at GPS for fishermen’s boats so they can be registered and tracked. He also said the radar system is fully functional and the man from Israel who services this part of the region said TT had some of the best technicians.
Young said the use of drone technology was also being considered.
This story was originally published with the title "Third body washes ashore in Point Fortin" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
A third body, believed to be one of the missing fishermen attacked at sea near Orange Valley, has washed ashore.
Between last night and this morning, two bodies were seen floating at sea in Point Fortin. One is believed to be Shiva "Aries" Ramdeo, 27, according to his uncle Myodeen Jaffar. The other is still to be identified.
Yesterday the body of Anand Rampersad, 39, was found around floating in the Gulf of Paria, off Carli Bay.
The missing men are Alex Sooknanan, 18, Jason " Trevor" Baptiste, 30, Leslie De Boulet, Justin Kissoon, 19, and his cousin Brandon "Curry" Kissoon, 21. Except for De Boulet, the men live at Orange Valley.
Four men —Robbie "Bope" Jaggernath, Brian "Lizard" Seemungal, Dillon Mendoza and Danesh "Mindy" Sankar — survived the ordeal. Sankar, who lives at Cali Bay and is the owner of the boat ‘Pigeon’ was chopped.
On Monday night, the group of fishermen were attacked in the Gulf of Paria off Orange Valley and Carli Bay. Pirates beat, threw them overboard and stole six engines.
Police recovered the engines in Sea Lots and arrested two men.