— due to harsh weather; no ruling out vessel, bodies are from another country
UNFAVOURABLE weather conditions at sea caused the boat with several decomposed bodies to drift further offshore Monday evening, as the search continues today for the vessel. However, there has been no report of missing Guyanese registered vessels or crew and authorities are not ruling out that the bodies on the 20X25 feet boat without engine are from another country. On Tuesday night, Public Works Minister, Bishop Juan Edghill, and Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn, briefed the media on the matter at the Maritime Boat House at Stabroek Stelling. Minister Edghill expressed Government’s concern, distress and sadness about the entire ordeal.
“We are distressed with after having five hours of aerial surveillance and the ‘scoping’ of the general area by two fast boats carrying 200 horsepower engines each in the general area, there was no sighting yet,” Edghill explained.
The boat was first sighted on Monday at about 83 nautical miles off Guyana’s shore, drifting 2.9 knots and was moving in a westerly direction.
The subject minister said Suriname was contacted and Trinidad was also informed of the discovery of the badly decomposed bodies of about five to 10 persons.
Further, he noted that based on the direction which the boat was coming from it, can even be a vessel out of Africa.
“The boat doesn’t have an engine attached to it. It has a tow line from the front based on the pictures. Was the boat towed out and cut loose? Was it cut from something, we are not sure that is why Minister of Home Affairs has remained engaged to ensure that the investigative capacity of the Police Force along with the resources become available instantly on capturing that boat and bringing it here so we can get answers,” he noted.
He explained that a crew from ExxonMobil had informed the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) of the situation and MARAD had asked the crew to put a tow line and bring the boat to shore but the crew indicated that they had to seek permission from their supervisors, which was granted.
However, during the process, along with the combination of bad weather, their efforts proved unsuccessful and the boat was last sighted at around 17:53hrs Monday, drifting in a westerly direction. The Guyana Defence Force (GDF), MARAD and private stakeholders are continuing the search. Additionally, an ExxonMobil helicopter conducted surveillance to scope the area but the boat was not found. A GDF Coast Guard and a helicopter team were also involved in the search Tuesday and are expected to return today. Minister Benn said that when or if authorities retrieve the vessel, the Guyana Police Force will take charge of the investigation to determine the origin of the victims and the circumstances surrounding the situation.
“The forensic and criminal investigations detectives will start their own investigations and along with the maritime administration, will seek to determine the origin of the vessel, the nationality of the persons as far as possible and try to reach out to any agency or State which may have a relationship with the vessel if it is not Guyanese in origin,” Minister Benn explained. Director of Maritime Safety, Captain John Flores said he was assisted by his counterparts in plotting and planning the retrieval of the vessel. “The weather last night (Monday) was very bad and the vessel could have experienced water lodge, and that is the main reason why the tug could not attach the rope since we could not get near to the boat; it’s a very small boat,” he said. Captain Flores added: “It looks like a vessel that is about 20 to 25 feet from the pictures we saw and it is an open boat, it has no cover, plus it was raining and there are no guarantees on what happened.” Director-General of the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), Stephen Thomas, was also at the emergency media briefing.