By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE death of Rishi Nagassar, one of the four divers who died in the Paria-LMCS tragedy in February 2022, was a real nightmare for his wife.
In a tearful testimony Nagassar’s common-law wife of 13 years, Vanessa Kussie, told the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) mandated to investigate the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death that she quizzed him on the risks of doing his job just two days before he was sucked into a pipeline at Paria’s facilities.
Before she started to read from her prepared statement which was made available to members of counsel, CoE’s chairman Jerome Lynch, KC told her he understood that it was not going to be easy for her. “There is not a single person here who does not have a considerable degree of sympathy for your position,” he said.
On Monday, Kussie before reading her statement told Lynch, “What I want to say, sir, is prior to what I am going to say now, my husband and I had this conversation before this tragedy had happened, two days before it had happened. I was like a detective asking him questions and when it came to reality, it was my nightmare.”
She said she was at the family’s home when she received the news that Nagassar was involved in an accident at Paria and soon after she was being offered condolences by a fisherman who knew her husband.
Kussie said then, she tried to frantically reach her husband, LMCS’s office and Nagassar’s friends to obtain more information.
“I started to scream, I pounded the ground and I rushed to my son. I picked him up and I went to my prayer room and I started to pray,” Kussie told the CoE.
With not much information being given from February 25, 2022 when the accident first occurred, she was informed that Nagassar’s body was recovered on February 28, 2022.
However, upon visiting the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James, the day after, she said the body that was swollen and covered in oil was determined to be that of Kazim Ali Jr and not Nagassar’s.
Nagassar’s body was the last of the four to be retrieved from the pipeline on March 3, 2022.
Kussie again visited the Forensic Sciences Centre when Nagassar’s body was recovered from the pipeline and was able to identify it.
Since his death, she has struggled financially along with other members of the family who have also been emotionally scarred.
“This has been a great loss to my family. My second son Nigel is not speaking with anyone, he just shakes and nods his head. My other son, Nicholai, he is with me all the time. They are not the same children,” Kussie said.
Kussie, along with Jamie Manodath-Ali who is the wife of Kazim Ali Jr and his mother Dr Catherine Ali were allowed by the CoE to have their prepared witness statements read live at the evidentiary hearings despite an application made by Paria to disallow them from doing so.
Manodath-Ali told the CoE that although promised to be updated regularly by Paria’s communications officer, that did not occur.
She said upon being told that attempts were being made to retrieve her husband, “I was still hoping my husband and his friends would emerge alive.”
Manodath-Ali ended her statement by saying, “Having worked in a large hospital, I’ve heard off and seen many people rescued from near possible situations like burning vehicles and buildings, road accidents, I find it a callous disregard for human life to claim it was too dangerous to rescue them, particularly as bruised and injured Christopher was able to make his way unaided from the air pocket to the surface and is still alive.”
A family member of Fyzal Kurban was also permitted to read a statement and Celisha Kurban’s statement was read by attorney representing the Kurban family, Prakash Ramadhar.
The family members were not allowed to be cross-examined.
Permission was also granted for four more statements from other family members to be read on Tuesday.