In a Facebook post that went viral he was described as the quarry explosion’s fifth fatality. But the man I met on Wednesday this week was very much painfully alive. Straight after reading his message that detailed how his life had altered since the incident that claimed four lives, injured several workers, and changed forever the lives of their loved ones, I headed to the grocery store. The furthest thing from my mind was a story. Already Amral Mohammed had shared with the world via the internet the details of his existence in consequence of the still unresolved disaster. What I read had simply set off in me an overwhelming need to assist as best I could a fellow human being in dire need of special attention.
A swarm of media personnel rushed to the address in George Ville, Castries where the 59-year-old Trinidadian native was being housed by a local Good Samaritan. I walked around Dilly’s supermart in Castries with no idea what to buy. When I dialled the number attached to the post the man who answered softly reminded me that “beggars can’t be choosers.” He was the only one who’d given Amral so much as a second look when he encountered him alone in the street following his discharge from hospital with not much else than the clothes on his back. The former quarry worker claimed he had been put on a bus and dropped off at the Bexon bus stand in Castries, even though he was unable to walk more than ten steps without collapsing in excruciating pain.
When he could no longer stay on his feet a vendor offered him something to sit on. After a while Andre Samuel, himself an old man, came along and, having recognized Amral’s predicament, offered him a roof to sleep under. Andre wasn’t himself much better off. The wooden structure he called home was in dire need of repair. Still, to Amral, Andre was “the old man with the heart of gold”.
On Wednesday afternoon it was my turn to be invited to meet Amral. Andre led the way across a broken wooden floor to a small bedroom at the back of his house where Amral lay on a spring mattress with a few bags of grocery items nearby. He’d not had a proper meal in days. His voice was barely audible. He was reluctant to drink water for fear he might need soon afterward to visit the bathroom. His slightest movement resulted in unbearable pain. The pain in his stomach was especially bad, discouraging him from eating.
Between deep coughs and heart-wrenching tears Amral spoke about his family: six kids and a wife who live in Belize. Amral had been working double shifts at the quarry to take care of them: 197 hours a fortnight. His wife is currently eight months pregnant; his 18-year-old student son is unable to pay tuition fees without Amral’s help.
I recalled Amral’s letter on the internet, posted on his son’s Facebook account. At his wit’s end he’d written to let the world know how scary and hopeless was his situation . . . how he might’ve been better off had he perished at the quarry. After all, he was an ASE-certified technician, light motor vehicle welder, as well as an auto-body repairman. At the quarry he was a second supervisor; he helped train workers to weld and taught them to do filler work and to paint vehicles.
Before we got down to discussing that life-changing day at the quarry, he revisited from his couch-surfing days sleeping at the house of a once welcoming co-worker who kicked him out after the explosion for fear Amral’s presence might inexplicably cause problems with his boss and jeopardize his job.
As for the explosion, Amral said: “All I remember is standing next to the excavator and hearing the boom. It just lifted me up in the air and threw me straight through a door, into a concrete wall. I just fell to the ground.” He had “felt nothing at the time”. He thought afterward that one of the welders’ tanks had blown up.
“I got up and ran out to look for the welder, then realized nobody was there. It was five o’clock, and we were on two shifts. Most of the guys had already left. All around me was bright . . . and then I saw everything that had blown out.”
Amral said he had no idea he was injured until hours later. He said his supervisor had then called the quarry owner and informed him of what had occurred. By Amral’s account the supervisor was told to “hurry and pick up everybody before anybody come and see that”. Officials at an emergency press meeting soon after the incident confirmed that by the time they arrived at the quarry, all casualties had been taken to hospital, save for two lifeless bodies.
“By the time the ambulance and police came they had already picked up everyone and got them out of there,” Amral recalled. As for what he thought caused the murderous blast: “They were welding on two containers, trying to make another shed between the containers, and the explosives was in one. Because when they go and they do their blasting they take the remainder of the explosives and put it inside there. They don’t take it up to the station; they knew it had explosives. It was one of the other supervisors at the hospital beside me that was telling me all that . . .”
Our conversation switched to his obvious discomfort. He had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the following day. He claimed he had not received any of the promised medication from his company. He also hadn’t been able to do the x-ray the doctor had ordered. I asked how he would get to the hospital. Amral couldn’t say. He hoped an individual sent by the company to see about the victims would come through. He showed me an unanswered whatsapp message to his doctor. More reason to believe he had been abandoned, that no one cared what might happen to him next.
“In the hospital the doctor would ask me how I was going. I would be answering and he would turn away to look at the television. I doubt he ever heard me. Last week he put me on the bed to test me, and instead he’s on the phone making calls about his car that had broken down. He was calling some place to find out why it wasn’t fixed while I’m lying there crying tears because of how much pain I’m in. In all honesty I don’t see the interest whatsoever.”
Amral said he’d been yelled at and belittled by the quarry’s victim liaison, particularly after he’d spoken to an insurance agent who had given him and all the other victims his contact information while at hospital.
“The insurance agent told me when I came out to call him and I did,” Amral said. “I guess he called [name deleted] because [name deleted] was really, really upset that I spoke to him; like I shouldn’t be talking to insurance.”
Though he had been approached to sign certain documents, Amral said he had refused to do so. “Lots of people have signed it or they don’t get back their job.”
Last week at a pre-Cabinet meeting ahead of the budget debate, the National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis, said investigations into the quarry explosion had been concluded and the results would soon be made public. Since then, nothing. Not from the government and not from the owners of the quarry. Meanwhile speculation of the worst kind is rife.
For the purposes of this article the STAR sought a comment from a representative of Rayneau Group of Companies. We were told by their press relations representative that her employers were not prepared at this time to make any statement related to victims of the explosion. Meanwhile several versions of what happened shortly before and after the explosion continue to make the rounds, even as victims grieve, and such as Amral continue to suffer the consequences convinced of the worst!
Editor’s note: Amral was admitted to hospital on Wednesday evening and is currently undergoing treatment. Persons wishing to offer support can do so by contacting : 724 5516 or 487 5233.