ATTORNEY Prakash Ramadhar, who is representing families of divers who died in the February 25 tragedy at Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd at Pointe-a-Pierre, on Wednesday suggested the criminal prosecution of anyone liable for the deaths. He also hinted at a civil lawsuit for the bereaved families.
He was addressing the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) chaired by British KC Jerome Lynch at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
Lynch asked if it was a criminal offence to not try to save someone.
Ramadhar replied, "Yes, it is, when you have the responsibility and ability to do so." He said this legal principal was now being tested in Florida - a different legal jurisdiction - in the case of a police officer who allegedly ran away from a mass shooting instead of going towards the gunfire.
Ramadhar suggested that if an amendment was needed to be made to current law in TT, he was prepared to propose it.
He also suggested that no legal liability should be incurred by someone allowing rescuers to try to undertake a dangerous rescue attempt.
Asked by Lynch if there was any legal difference between someone sending or permitting a would-be rescuer, Ramadhar replied yes, as the latter involved a person who was offering to go in to the scene of danger.
Lamenting criticisms of would-be rescuers in this case as allegedly being instinctive and emotional, he recalled a sudden incident when he was 18 years old and alone in Barbados where he had broken up a fight between a man armed with a knife and another armed with a big stone.
"In a moment of emergency and urgency, you put your life on the line to save lives."
Regarding civil litigation, he said, "We have already issued pre-action protocol letters to Paria and others, he said.
Ramadhar proposed the permanent establishment of a national emergency command centre to be staffed by individuals of a military disposition who exhibit "no flinching, no fear." Such a centre would allow "hard decisions to be made in a very limited time", with staff having access to all requisite resources. If such a centre had now existed, the four deceased divers would be alive today, he said.
Ramadhar also suggested that an incident command/management team at any future accident scene must include a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA.)
He urged the Government to expand the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act to also cover workplace injuries, as he lamented a relative of one deceased diver having to resort to holding a barbecue at Christmas to raise funds to sustain her family.