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Paria and Heritage attorneys Jason Mootoo (left ) and Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson at the CoE into the Paria diving tragedy. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Paria and Heritage attorneys Jason Mootoo (left ) and Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson at the CoE into the Paria diving tragedy. – SUREASH CHOLAI

There was contrasting evidence in the Paria Commission of Enquiry as lawyers sought to determine whether procedure was followed during the changing of a faulty riser which resulted in the death of four divers on February 25.

Gilbert Peterson, SC, who represents Paria and the Heritage Petroleum Company, showed surviving diver Christopher Boodram an account by Paria’s HSE officer of the toolbox meeting which took place on the morning of the incident.

Peterson said, “In that list of 16 steps, there is no mention of any activity involving the removing of the barriers, the mechanical plug, or the inflatable plug.”

CoE chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, took Boodram through the Land and Marine Construction Services Ltd (LMCS) method statement, which was attached to the work permit governing the job.

“I can’t recall seeing this document, but you have to remember I wasn’t there every day. I have no recollection of seeing this document at all.”

Lynch read through sections of the document.

“Paragraph 56 said to manually remove the migration barrier from the line – that’s the plug, the metal one with the bolts on; and paragraph 57 said manually deflate line plug and remove from the line. Paragraph 58 said manually instal the blind flange on riser by positioning end flange on newly installed slip-on flange and securing with fasteners. Paragraph 59 said the chamber crew to demobilise and return to exterior, 60 said disengage air supply and allow chamber to flood, and 61 said unbolt the 50-inch flange at the top of the chamber stove-pipe.”

He asked Boodram whether this was his recollection of what was to happen on that day.

“Yes, sir, this is what I was told. This is the topic we had on that day, excluding the flood. Well, we had to flood the chamber when we were leaving, including the flooding of the chamber, but the removal of the chamber and thing would have been done, providing the 25th went smoothly, on the 26th.”

Lynch asked, “Did anyone say to you that under no circumstances must that plug was to be removed, from LMCS or from Paria, at any stage?”

Boodram replied, “No, sir, on the contrary, that was the plan, to remove the plug.”

Lynch said Boodram had testified that it took an hour to two hours for that process to occur.

“During that two-hour period, did anyone from Paria or LMCS say, ‘Do not remove that plug’?”

Boodram replied, “No, sir.”

Lynch said the work permit document also had attached a lift document and job-safety analysis (JSA) document, which were together in a series of documents supplied by Paria.

“Do you remember if this document at all was shown to you on the day you were going to carry out this work?”

Boodram said he could not remember seeing the document attached to the work permit, but it was read to him by LMCS’s safety officer.

Peterson asked Boodram if he knew, between the method statement and the PTW for the day, which one actually dictates what workers were supposed to do on the day.

Boodram replied, “The method statement is, in my view, the one you would work with and go to, because the method statement is what you would use to obtain the contract.”

When Peterson asked if Boodram accepted that the PTW took precedence over the method statement, Boodram said, “Which part in the PTW say that you could not take out the plugs? There was nowhere stating you should not have done it.

“If there was a ‘must not’ do something, it would have been bold, as it is here – bold in writing, that all steps below shall be carried out to full compliance with Paria PTW system. When Paria at any time found that the job was going out of their PTW, they would have stopped the job, that’s what they had officials there for.”

In response to questioning from Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union counsel Nyree Alfonso, Boodram said when he used a tank to get air from while escaping the pipe, it was not lodged anywhere in the pipe, as he was able to swim over it. He said he did not believe camera footage which showed the pipe was blocked.

The CoE was adjourned until Thursday at 10 am.