63 passengers saved after fire on board …”DRAMATIC RESCUE”

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A dramatic rescue at sea on Tuesday night resulted in 63 passengers being saved from a fiery death.

A fire in the exhaust of the water taxi, Trini Flash, resulted in chaos on board. It took the Cabo Star which was passing to respond and assist in the rescue operations.

The water taxi caught fire off Blanchisseuse, en route to Port of Spain. The boat left Tobago at 4 pm and it was reported that smoke was seen emanating from the vessel.

An announcement was made on board the water taxi around 6 pm that there were mechanical problems and all passengers were asked to remain seated. After 30 minutes, no help arrived and panicked passengers used cellphones the authorities.

Works and Transport Minister, Rohan Sinanan, said on Wednesday morning, that he received an interim report, but he expects a full report later in the day. So far, investigations show that the fire started in the exhaust.

Lyle Alexander, chairman of the Port Authority, said the fire was put out and the sea bridge’s cargo vessel, the Cabo Star, was rerouted to help passengers. He said there were no reports of injuries.

Lt Sherron Manswell, public affairs officer for the TT Coast Guard, said the unit received a report around 6 pm that the Trini Flash was taking on water. A vessel was sent out to assist. The Paria Bullet, another water taxi, was also sent to assist.

The water taxis was used on Tuesday to supplement the transfer of passengers between Trinidad and Tobago in the absence of the T&T Express, which has been dry docked for maintenance, and the T&T Spirit which is still undergoing sea trials after being dry docked since last year.

This is not the first time the Trini Flash had a problem. Last June, on a routine evening trip from Port of Spain to San Fernando, the boat stalled in the middle of the Gulf of Paria. Passengers then had reported the smell of something burning, and criticized the crew for not being more helpful in admitting what the problem was.

A few months earlier, in February, the boat had been removed from service by the National Infrastructural Development Company (NIDCO), because of prolonged sailing times. The Galleons Passage, the new US$17 million vessel sourced by the Government to service the sea bridge is on its way to Trinidad from China. That boat is currently in the Pacific, en route to Honolulu, Hawaii, and is expected to dock here at the end of April.

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