FIVE fishermen are thanking God for sparing their life after their boat sank on Saturday night while on a fishing expedition on board Crystal Eye, on the west coast of Tobago.
According to reports, the 55-foot trawler with 350 hp engine, captained by James Kirwan, and owned by Christopher Ragbir, began taking in water around 7pm near the marine border with Grenada. The men on board were Kirwan, 59; Kyle Dyer, 31; Azim Baksh, 35; Keston Frederick, 36; and Jerome Nicome, 63.
Before the boat submerged, distress calls were sent but the signal was too weak.
Frightened and in frigid conditions, the men, wearing life jackets, jumped into the Caribbean Sea as the boat went under.
The men believe it was God that kept them alive long enough for a Bahamian vessel, The Siem Spearfish, to spot them and pull them from the choppy waters. They had been drifting at sea for almost two hours.
The Bahamian vessel was able to respond as it reportedly was in TT waters under contract by a local company.
The men, wearing the life jackets that saved them not less than 24 hours before, were greeted at the Port of Port of Spain by emotional family members on Sunday evening, after they arrived aboard the TT Spirit.
The men said it was their prayers to God that delivered them from tragedy.
Nicome told Newsday, "Thank God, all the honour and glory and praise. Anybody who hearing me now, trust Christ. I telling yuh, because He is the one that saved us. God allow us to drift into the vessel that saved us. Nobody was seeing us out there."
Dyer added, "The waters was rough, real rough. If wasn't for God we wouldn't be alive today."
All Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) president Curtis Douglas told Newsday on Sunday, the mayday calls from Crystal Eye were "muffled" and it was difficult to hear what the person was saying.
"The news was coming in inflicting. We couldn't get the exact information because our radio wasn't picking up too clear. This was after midnight to 1 o' clock (Sunday morning)," Douglas said.
Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart was full of praise on Sunday for the Bahamian crew.
"They spent quite a while in the water before they were rescued. They are very fortunate they survived it," he said.
He added, "Just after midnight we received a call from the TT Coast Guard that there was an incident at sea where the vessel sunk. They would have requested of us if we could make available a pirogue to assist in the transfer of personnel from the Bahamian vessel, because of the large hull they were unable to come into the Port of Scarborough."
Stewart said the Bahamian vessel, around 2 am, eventually decided to drop one of their lifeboat vessels to bring the men alongside the port."
Newsday understands one of the rescued men, Frederick, was suffering from hypothermia.
Stewart said, "However, he was quite okay after being treated on the vessel and checked by emergency medical services at the port. None of the men needed to be taken to the hospital.
"They had nothing on them, just the clothes given to them by the captain of Spearfish."
Stewart said the families of all the men were contacted and appraised of the situation.
They were placed in a guesthouse to spend the night and left Tobago aboard the TT Spirit at 3pm on Sunday.
Douglas said ATFA has been lobbying for two rescue boats for situations like these.
"So in these cases we would probably one of the first responders to be able to treat with that. We've been clamouring for that for a long while, so that in situations where local or international boats in distress, once they in our waters we will respond."
He said satellite phones are also needed to help modernise the fishing industry in Tobago.