DEADLY ROUGH SEAS
By NEWSDAY STAFF Monday, March 11 2013
AN ELDERLY man from Switzerland, who failed to heed warnings from management at the Tobago resort where he was staying, not to go into the rough seas, drowned when his kayak was tossed and then turned over by massive waves off the coast at Culloden Bay yesterday.
The body of Rene Albert Dietschi was recovered by Coast Guard officials at about 12.45 pm. Newsday was told that Dietschi was warned by officials at the Eco resort not to go into the sea after the Met Office last week warned of several days of rough and dangerous sea conditions.
Dietschi ignored these warnings and at 11 am, took to the sea in his kayak. At that time, police reported, Culloden Bay which is usually calm and serene, was beginning to get very choppy with waves crashing one after the other onto the surf. The man soon disappeared under the rough seas and a report was made to the Moriah Police.
His body was recovered at about 12.45 pm and taken to the morgue at Scarborough General Hospital. Last night, officials in Tobago were attempting to get in contact with Dietschi’s relatives in Switzerland to formally notify them of his death. An autopsy is expected to be done shortly.
Fishermen at Charlotteville on Tobago’s far north-east coast, as well as other fishing districts on the sister isle, have heeded the Met Office’s warnings and pulled their boats out of the water as a precautionary measure.
Over in Trinidad, while many people were disappointed by the lack of giant waves as was predicted to hit the North coast yesterday, sea goers did face very rough waters which at times, prevented typical bathing activities.
Life guards were present at several beaches along the North Coast including Maracas, Tyrico, Las Cuevas and even Blanchisseuse. At the Maracas Fishing Village, several boats were pulled high onto the shore, as large waves pushed sea water close to the roadway. Similar precautionary measures were taken by fishermen in Las Cuevas, although some boats were still seen floating on the waters of the bay.
In Tyrico, which is usually calm and idyllic, waves some as high as six feet crashed onto the shore with the sound almost like that of thunder. Very few persons ventured into the rough water.
In Blanchisseuse, the sea was rougher and choppier than usual with only one brave man seen venturing into the churning water. Asked why he was not heeding the Met Office’s precaution, the man who asked not to be identified, simply said, “the water isn’t that bad. I can’t understand why people are not bathing..it’s just rough. But to me you can’t come to the beach and not bathe.”
Speaking to Newsday yesterday, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM)’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Stephen Ramroop, said that his organisation had spent the entire day monitoring the nation’s coast lines.
He noted that officials from the ODPM were working in conjunction with lifeguards throughout the country as well as officials from disaster units of the various regional corporations, in keeping a close eye at the magnitude of the swells, and the damage, if any, that they may cause.
“Right now we are all working together to gather and combine our information and see what intervention is needed, if any. The ODPM also has aerial coordinators at beaches throughout the country. I can say definitively one was at Maracas for the majority of the day, and the others were visiting other beaches along the North and East Coasts.
“We have them there so that if the situation did indeed get really bad, we would be able to respond quickly. So to that end we were given the option as well of a National Security Helicopter to do a fly by of these areas to see the extent of any damage.
“As of right now (4.30 pm) we have not opted to use the helicopter, as our field reports have informed us that while the situation is rougher than normal, the situation at these beaches are indeed manageable.
“But we are wary and we want to reiterate caution to all those who engage in any sea faring activities over the next coming days,” Ramroop said.