A Board of Inquiry (BoI) has been established to investigate a fuel vessel crashing into the Demerara Harbour Bridge in the wee hours of Saturday morning and causing a ‘national emergency.’
During a press conference on Saturday, Public Works Minister Bishop Juan Bishop Edghill noted that the seven-member BoI will be issued with their instruments of appointment and will commence work on Sunday.
“We have heard preliminarily some things that occurred but we have just completed a meeting with the Board of Directors along with other stakeholders and we have established a Board of Inquiry into this,” Minister Edghill said.
The pilot of the vessel, a Guyanese, was arrested and released. He tested negative for drugs and alcohol. The vessel will not be allowed to depart port Georgetown until the matter is resolved.
He has also been “instantly suspended’’ from piloting any ship and most likely this ban will be permanent.
The Maritime Administration and the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation have started the legal procedure to deal with the matter.
“Is this terrorism, is this madness? Because what’s going on here? People are affected and that is why we have moved swiftly to put in place such a comprehensive Board of Inquiry,” he added.
Reports indicate that at around 2:00 hours on Saturday, a Fuel Vessel, the MV Tradewinds Passion, which transports fuel for the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil), while heading south, crashed into the Demerara Harbour Bridge, despite desperate calls to ‘drop anchor’ from the Shift Supervisor, Andy Duke.
Duke, who was in one of the lookout towers, tried desperately to communicate with the pilot without success. He eventually had to jump from the booth in an effort to save his life.
He fractured his leg in the process and is currently hospitalised.
The other men who were working at the bottom of the bridge including Mechanical Maintenance engineer Ahmad Khan had to run for their lives.
Khan said, “We had to run for over lives because was a big ship and we done know the impact that this thing will cause. I tell everybody to start moving off, come off the span move off because people were conducting welding on the bridge, repairing deck plates so everybody start coming off immediately…within a minute’s time, because we already see it coming towards us.”
The vessel was the last of five vessels to transit the bridge during the retraction.
An early morning assessment was done at 4:00 hours and works immediately started to get the bridge which was shifted at a 45-degree angle, realigned.
Minister Edghill voiced the government’s appreciation to the stakeholders involved in lending assistance in getting the bridge back in operation.
“The Government of Guyana, President [Irfaan] Ali and his entire cabinet would like to record our deep appreciation for the private sector… and the other stakeholders of the state that responded in the wee hours of [Saturday] morning to this situation in lending support to ensure that we respond in a manner that could ensure that the country is secure, people are able to move, goods and services are continuing to be provided and at the same time in the shortest possible time to finish this bridge and reopen it to traffic.”
He noted that with help from the private sector some materials needed to repair the bridge are being manufactured and will be delivered shortly. The authorities are hoping to get the bridge up and running by Monday night, with light traffic at first.
Minister Edghill added: “We want to assure the public that the government of Guyana is doing everything humanly possible. We are sparing no resources. We are taking no shortcuts but we want to deliver to you a service that so many thousands of people depend on daily and that is the usage of this bridge. This would be a good time for all of us to remind ourselves that we were absolutely right…and correct when we went out for a tender for a new high span four-lane concrete bridge…so we don’t have a situation like what we have here and what we had just some weeks ago.”
Some immediate interventions were made, and the water taxis that operate across the Demerara River have been allowed to operate for 24 hours.
An additional point of entry was opened at the Boat House next to the Stabroek wharf.
Some additional points of access to water taxis will be put in place at La Grange, West Bank Demerara (WBD) to the Demerara Harbour Bridge and another from the Wales, WBD area to the Diamond Grove area, East Bank Demerara (EBD).
The parking lot at the Guyana National Stadium in Providence, EBD will be used to park vehicles that are stranded.
The Public Works Ministry has set up lighting at the Stabroek Wharf while a member of the Private Sector has set up lights at Vreed-en-Hoop, WCD. There will be 24- hour police presence in these areas.
This is the worst damage to the structure in its entire 47-year history.
The Public Works Minister was joined by Minister within the Public Works Ministry, Deodat Indar and Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn at the press conference.
The Demerara Harbour Bride was established in 1975, and is the longest floating bridge in the world. It is the main access for persons travelling from Regions Three, Seven, One and Two.