THE screams of Ramnath Minwah's wife and children shattered the quiet community of St John’s Trace in Claxton Bay around 6.30 pm on Saturday, when they saw him fall into a swollen river and get swept away by the strong currents.
Minwah’s family and neighbours rushed to rescue him, but it was not until almost an hour later, that the man who spent his life as a boat captain, was found unresponsive, his arms wrapped around a tree.
Fire services, police officers and ambulance attendants who arrived on the scene, later retrieved the body from the floodwaters.
Distraught relatives said Minwah was a strong swimmer, but age and illness as well as strong currents conspired to pull him under and to his death.
“If he was not old and sick, the waters would never have taken him. He was a top swimmer back in the day. He was a seaman, the captain of a boat. He worked all around the world,” said Dolly Minwah, his wife of over five decades.
She said that shortly after 6 pm, Minwah, 76, a father of six, grandfather of 16 and great-grandfather of four, left home to purchase cigarettes.
“He went by his nephew, one house away from ours and the nephew went and bought the cigarettes for him.”
On returning with the cigarettes, she said, Minwah's nephew observed that the river on the opposite side of their home was swollen. He told his uncle to stay until the water receded.
“My husband said he wanted to come home before the waters got higher,” she said.
“As he left his nephew's home, a car was parked in the middle of the road and my husband just stepped to his left to go around it and in so doing, slipped and fell into the river.
“My daughters and granddaughter saw him fall in and started bawling. Everybody came out immediately and started to search.”
Granddaughter Janelle Pirmal, 22, witnessed the moment her grandfather fell into river.
“We tried to save him, but it was pitch dark. There was nothing for him to hold on to and he was swept away. People used torches, head lights, car lights to search.”
Holding her head with one hand and wiping away tears with the other, Dolly said this could have been avoided if the help they had been clamouring for was heeded.
“When we came to live here this was a drain, there was no river. We bought this property, I ent no squatter. I have a deed for this property.” She said over the years, soil erosion narrowed the road and widened the drain until it became a river.
“It is not the first time someone fell into that river. For years I have been going to the councillor and the MP to complain about the erosion. Everytime it rains, the water took more and more of the road.
“I spoke to MP David Lee, chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, Henry Awong and councillor Nadia. They all came, saw the situation but nothing was done. They said it would be too costly to repair.
“So, is the cost to stop the erosion and fix the problem worth more than the life of my husband,” she asked.
Dolly said that frustrated by the floods, only a day before the tragedy, she recalled telling her husband she felt like packing up and leaving the community.
This is the second tragic incident in which someone had been swept away and drowned due to flooding.
On Wednesday October 5, Lopinot farmer Theresa Lynch was swept away in the flood-swollen Surrey River, Lopinot as she and her brother were trying to make their way to their garden. Her body was found in the Caroni River near Trincity two days later.