Lifeguards assaulted, seek meeting with minister

About 20 lifeguards from Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas gathered outside the Ministry of National Security headquarters on Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister of National Security Stuart Young over grave security concerns following an assault of two lifeguards on Sunday.

Two lifeguards - a male and a female working at the Las Cuevas beach were physically assaulted by relatives of a drowning victim.

The incident occurred just after 4 pm when Royel Cruickshank, 18, of Marabella, got into difficulties and went under water. 

Cruickshank’s step-father, Marcus Daniel, almost drowned when he also went into the water in an attempt to save him. Daniel was pulled from the water alive by other bathers and taken to hospital via ambulance. 

However, Cruickshank's body was retrieved on Monday afternoon.

Cruickshank's relatives, who accused the lifeguards of not responding to their distress call in time allegedly proceeded to assault to two on-duty lifeguards.

Speaking with the Guardian Media yesterday, one of the lifeguards who were assaulted said he and the other female lifeguard both received minor injuries including scrapes and lacerations.

The lifeguard, who was also supported by 19 others outside of the ministry's Temple Court building braved the inclement weather seeking the urgent meeting. However, they were told that they would meet with a permanent secretary and close to midday they were still said to be waiting for the promised meeting.

"We want a police presence now with us. Especially in Las Cuevas, where those people were bathing there are no lifeguards in that area and there are signs, in addition to which they were warned to move away from the area but no one listened to us. When the drowning happened that was when we were attacked and now we are fearful for our lives and we want police protection," the lifeguard victim said. He also added that their lives were also threatened, "a man said he was (it's alleged) going to get a gun and come back for them so we were not only traumatised but also afraid to even go back to our posts."

The lifeguard further explained that Las Cuevas beach span just over two miles but said that they only service 500 metres because of the lack of facilities, staff and motorised equipment, "although there are signs in that area that we don't patrol, we also warn bathers to stay away...long time when we had motorised equipment we could have still gone to that area but now we don't. By the time if someone gets in difficulty and because of the distance they go under by the time we get there and we now have to carry out searches and not rescue missions where we can reach them in time and pull them out."

Another lifeguard, Kirk Morton said that they are not asking for a police post per se but "easy access to police officers around them especially should any situation in similar nature arises again in the future."

Morton also said that remedial works to the Lifeguard's building at Maracas Bay have not been completed. He also said that after Friday's meeting with ministry officials all lifeguards returned for duty on Saturday, however, were forced to leave their posts as the sewer system in a toilet on the ground floor backed up and overflowed again spilling raw sewage into the building.

"We thought at least that back up of the sewer system had been addressed but it wasn't because it backed up again. We don't even know how long they will take again to fix the plumbing and see about the rat infestation. Not until all of that is addressed then we will resume duties again," Morton said.

- Rhondor Dowlat-Rostant