8 forced to jump overboard as $22M river ambulance bursts into flames

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The Orealla river ambulance went up in flames on Monday afternoon in the Corentyne River not far from the Amerindian community of Orealla, Corentyne, Berbice.

Reports indicated that eight persons were on board; however, one was seriously injured.

Gavin France, a government 10-day part-time worker attached to Orealla Health Centre, reportedly suffered second-degree burns to his right chest, hand, and face.

The other persons who received minor injuries are Pamela Chacon (a wound to her left foot); Ganesh Shivmangal (a wound to his left foot); Berto Jabar (wounds to his right toes) and Brentnal Herman, who received a wound to his right foot.

The ambulance was at the time returning from Corriverton after taking a patient to the Skeldon Hospital, who was eventually transferred to New Amsterdam Hospital.

Police said that about 17:30h, Roderick Herman, 34, who resides at Orealla Village, reported that about 17:00h, he was the captain (employed by the Health Ministry of the Orealla ambulance water taxi, which had eight passengers.

He told Police that he was travelling south in the Corentyne River heading towards Orealla Village, but while in the vicinity of Francis Wharf, he saw sparks coming from the water pump area, which is in the stern of the boat, close to the gas tank.

The fire subsided after gutting the entire upper portion of the water ambulance.

Borlyn Morris, who is attached to the health centre, told Inews that the ambulance left Corriverton after 16:00h on Monday after refuelling.

She said during the trip the boat was experiencing engine trouble. She explained that the engine kept cutting off, and France opened the area where the fuel was and immediately there was an explosion.

“There was like grey ash all over his shirt and it was on fire. He had to take off his shirt and throw it in the river,” she related.

The health worker said that they were able to use the fire extinguisher on board to keep down the flames, but the blaze reignited.

“The bow of the boat couldn’t hold everybody and so four persons went into the water.”

She related that after about 15 minutes, another boat arrived and rescued them.

The persons who were taken to the hospital were treated and sent away, except for France. He was transferred to New Amsterdam Public Hospital, where he is presently receiving further treatment for burn injuries.

The river ambulance was acquired in October 2018, at a cost of $22.4 million and had been used to service Orealla, which is situated some 50 miles up the Corentyne River as well as its sister village Siparuta.