Four missing at sea after leaving Guayaguayare
A MASSIVE search-and-rescue mission was under way on Sunday, both on land and sea, for four men from Mayaro and Guayaguayare who disappeared after going on a fishing expedition last Tuesday.
The 32-foot pirogue (Venom II) which the men were in was found capsized off Cedros near Venezuela on Sunday morning. It was towed to the compound of Heritage Petroleum in Point Fortin.
Missing are the boat owner Heeralal "Lenus" Cooblal, 54, of Grand Lagoon, Mayaro; mechanic and welder Rishi Khemchan, 38, who lives not too far from Cooblal; Andy "Tallman" George, 40; and the boat's captain, identified only as "Criminal George." George and "Criminal George" are said to be both from Guayaguayare.
Criminal George, who is in his 60s, lives alone and is originally from the Ortoire Village/Manzanilla district.
The four left the Guayaguayare fishing port on Tuesday at around 2 pm on the "mother boat," meaning it was equipped with enough food and other supplies to last a few days at sea. They were expected to return on Thursday evening or Friday morning.
However, when they failed to return, relatives alerted the NGOs Hunters Search and Rescue Team (HRST), led by Vallence Rambharat, and Troopers Search and Rescue from Mayaro, led by Wesley Mohammed. They also alerted the Coast Guard, other fishermen and the police.
On Sunday, Heeralal's relatives told Newsday the father of three and grandfather of two has been going out to sea since he was a youth.
He turned to garden, and Tuesday was the first time in years he went out because he recently bought the boat. It was the boat's maiden trip.
"The engine was still on the boat, so it did not seem like a pirate attack. The boat was spotted about ten minutes from Venezuela's borders. The area where it was found is in the mang, which is infamous for piracy," a relative said.
Rambharat and his team were also searching and promised to help with fuel costs.
"These fishermen are very experienced and resilient. If they had to grab a cooler and put on their life jackets, we know they may be drifting in the waters somewhere between Venezuela and Cedros," Rambharat said.
"The alert has to continue and try to see if we can locate them. The search is of paramount importance at this time."
Khemchan's sisters, Kavita and Sunita Khemchan, said he is a jack of all trades. He works as a welder, rigger, and mechanic. He was repairing the boat and went out with the three others.
"There is no sign of them up to now. I guess Rishi went into the sea because he was helping Mr Cooblal with the boat. While helping, he might have planned to probably go on a test run. We saw they found the boat with the engine, and we are awaiting more news," Sunita said.
He is not married and does not have any children.
In Guayaguayare, George's uncle Curtis George, 62, said the crew went out to "throw net" for a few days.
He added, "But no one knows what happened out there. They got the boat, but where are the people? Fish was holding here, but it could be very rough out there."
On Sunday, in a statement, Mayaro MP Rushton Paray said he was praying for the safe return of the men and his thoughts are with their families. The MP said he had been in communication with the Mayaro police, the Coast Guard, and the HRST.
Anyone with information on their whereabouts can call Cedros police at 690-1196, Mayaro police at 630-4333 or any police station.
People can also call the police at 555, 999 or Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS (8477) or report it via the TTPS App.
"Four missing at sea after leaving Guayaguayare"