Raj Sonnylal

Drowning victim Raj Sonnylal on an earlier trip to the Maracas beach, where he would drown.

THE family of a man who drowned at Maracas beach is blaming the State for not providing lifeguards to monitor one of the most popular beaches in the country.

There were no lifeguards on duty when Raj Sonnylal, 29, disappeared under the waves for half an hour before his body resurfaced and washed ashore on Sunday.

Sonnylal died in the Intensive Care Unit of the Port of Spain General Hospital a day later.

When the Express visited Sonnylal’s Penal home, his mother, Annie Sonnylal summed up how she felt about her son’s death in one sentence.

“My Prime Minister has money for everything else but he can’t see about the life guards”, the mother said.

Lifeguards have been protesting health and safety issues at their stations and have been staying away from their duties at Maracas Beach.

There was no immediate help for Sonnylal when he began floundering in the water and lifeguards at the neighbouring beach at Las Cuevas were called to assist.

They arrived half-hour after he was pulled out of the water and a team from the US Marines, and Dr Buffong, had already begun cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him.

Lifeguards of the Las Cuevas lifeguard station assisted and an Emergency Health Services ambulance took Sonnylal to hospital.

National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) representative for the lifeguards, Augustus Sylvester, said among the health and safety issues were the dead rats and bat droppings in the building, malfunctioning toilets, with one of them clogged and sewage flooding the toilet area, faulty water pump, and no air conditioning.

The lifeguards, who are scheduled to work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead sign the register, stay a few hours on the job and leave.

A relative of Sonnylal who did not wish to be named said he and his cousins went to a religious function earlier that morning, then stopped at Maracas beach.

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“They were now walking into the water when a wave hit them and tumbled all of them over. A doctor saved his two cousins and when they looked for Raj they didn’t see him. About half an hour later his body came up,” the relative said.

The doctor who performed CPR on Sonnylal and his cousins came to the wake on Monday night, the relative said.

The relative said Sonnylal did not often go to the beach, and it was not planned to go to the beach that day.

Sonnylal, he said, worked at Lifestyle Motors for the past two years, and previously lectured in auto electrical and mechanics and at National Energy Skills Centre (NESC).

Sonnylal and his brother, Ravi Sonnylal, sang and played musical instruments at religious functions.