LAST DIVER LAID TO REST | Local News

IT was too much for Nickolide Dillon Kussie to handle, as he held on to the casket bearing the remains of his father, Rishi Nagassar, yesterday.

Nickolide collapsed on the floor, sobbing for the man who had raised him as his own son.

Nagassar, the last diver to be recovered from the undersea pipeline off Pointe-a-Pierre, was the last to be laid to rest yesterday following a Hindu service at his family’s Perseverance Village, Couva, home.

It was at this home that his three-year-old son with wife Vanessa Kussie—Nashhik—had been waiting for his father since he left for work two Fridays ago.

A life-sized photograph was printed on the top of his casket, which was led into the family home by tassa drummers.

His wife, Vanessa Kussie, sat with her hands clasped in prayer for her beloved husband. She cried silently.

Nagassar and Vanessa had with through Kazim Ali Jr, his niece Ashley Beharrylal said at the funeral service.

“Years ago, my aunt Vanessa had a restaurant in Marabella. This is where the boss Kaz, also known as Bean, and the others would drop in after work for a drink on evenings, and uncle Ryan (Rishi) would accompany them as well. Once day, aunt Vanessa asked Bean to bring in some cases of drinks for her to pack in the fridge, and Bean sent Ryan,” she said. And that was where their love story began.

Nagassar said his wife was the woman he had always dreamed of, and loved her and their son dearly. He also cared for Kussie’s two older sons, relatives said. “And on the fourth of every month he would celebrate his son’s birthday. He did that for three years, and now we understand why,” she said.

Nagassar loved the sea and worked hard to give his family a good life, relatives said.

Pundit: Don’t cast blame

Officiating pundit Surujdath Maharaj said although the tragedy had left everyone shocked and in disbelief, no one should cast blame until the truth is revealed. “Don’t put any blame, let us not carry that blame on our shoulder,” he said.

Following the service, the casket bearing the remains of the man described as a hero was carried through the streets of Perseverance Village in a procession to the Couva cemetery for burial.

The family was further pained when Kussie’s uncle, local government councillor Allan Seepersad, said Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd had failed them from the moment the incident happened on February 25.

He said no company official had checked on his niece, and up to yesterday morning Paria had issued a statement defending its decision to prevent further entry by LMCS divers into the 30-inch pipeline during the search-and-rescue exercise.

Seepersad recalled the evening his niece received the call that “something had happened to Rishi”.

He said Kussie collapsed in the kitchen and would spend the next five days and nights sitting outside the compound of Paria, waiting to see her husband walking through the gates.

“When we went there (Paria), we met with the security who had no clue what going on. I saw an ambulance coming out, so I flag them down and asked if there was an incident. We thought it was Rishi in the ambulance, but then we find out it was Christopher Boodram. I remember sitting outside there and I didn’t bathe in two days,” Seepersad said.

Seepersad said he was disappointed in Paria’s failure to communicate with the families and not once did anyone from the company visit his niece’s home to “see how she was coping”.

And he promised to honor Nagassar’s wishes to educate his little boy. “We will give him the education you wanted for him. I promise you,” he said.

Nagassar and four other divers —Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry and Christopher Boodram—were pulled into the undersea pipeline. Boodram was rescued by volunteer divers. The bodies of Ali, Kurban and Henry were recovered four days later. The men were employed by LMCS Ltd. Ali was the son of LMCS managing director, Kazim Ali.

Justice and fair play

On Sunday, Kussie held a candlelight vigil in memory of the four divers, saying it was the beginning of her journey for justice.

Among the mourners yesterday were LMCS Ltd managing director Kazim Ali Sr, and relatives of the other three divers.

United National Congress (UNC) Members of Parliament Rudranath Indarsingh, Ravi Ratiram, Vandana Mohip, Barry Padarath and chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional corporation Henry Awong, councillors and Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah also attended the service.

Indarsingh said the Opposition had signaled a warning to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that it will not relent in its quest to ensure there is fair play, justice, accountability and openness in the commission of inquiry into the Paria tragedy.

“All those who are prepared to take part in the commission of inquiry into the circumstance that led to this tragedy, they must not be in any way politically or financially connected to the People’s National Movement or Paria,” he said.

Funerals were held for Ali and Kurban last week. Henry was buried on Wednesday.

Autopsies performed at the Forensic Science Center revealed that the men drowned.

However, LMCS has said a private pathologist was hired to perform second autopsies on the men to determine the time of death.

recovery process

Rishi was the last diver to be found.

Paria had been able to find the bodies of Kurban, Henry and Ali on Monday afternoon (February 28) by using high-pressure water to flush the pipeline.

The three men were known to be alive up to nightfall on Friday, according to Boodram.

It is believed Nagassar’s body was sucked very far into the undersea crude oil pipeline, which was why it took six days to retrieve him.

The method used by Paria to “flush out” the bodies of the three other divers had failed in Nagassar’s recovery.

The men were pulled into a 1,200-foot 30-diameter pipeline that connects Berth 5 to Berth 6 in the waters off Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25.

The Express was told by an industry expert with knowledge of the recovery effort that Nagassar’s body was recovered by inserting a foam plug into the pipeline and pushing it along until his remains exited.

Nagassar may have been the first person to be pulled into the pipeline, followed by a piece of equipment that had blocked access to him.

His body was found 100 feet along the seabed, Paria said.

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