Woman recounts horrifying details when drunk soldiers crashed into her boat

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By Isanella Patoir

Twenty-six-year-old Chandanie Khayum remembers fighting for her life after a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) vessel crashed into the boat she was in with her husband Ryan Khayum and two other relatives – Carl Defreitas and Anthony Alphan.

Mrs Khayum, during an interview with the News Room, said that while she lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, she lost even more on that tragic day. Her hopes of finding her husband alive were crushed after his body surfaced two days later.

“I did expect to find him alive because I know he knows to swim. But due to the injury what my husband get, he shoulder break, five of his ribs break so maybe he couldn’t swim,” the woman said.

Mr Khayum also suffered head trauma, laceration to the legs and hands and his front teeth were missing.

On April 20, 2020, the family was returning home in a 15 HP engine boat after selling provisions and coconuts at the Charity Market on the Essequibo Coast.

The damaged boat that the family was in

At about 21:00h, the GDF vessel crashed into them. As a result, the husband fell overboard, Alphan was pinned under the boat and sustained injuries while Defreitas managed to escape unharmed.

Mrs Khayum received injuries to the head and shoulder; she was hospitalised for two days. She recounted the horrifying details.

“One of the cousins holler –boat, boat! I was sitting flat in the boat and when I left my head to see the boat was already in our boat. The coast guard boat crashed into the stern hitting my husband first, he did not had any time to jump or escape. That boat fitted flush in our boat, sitting in our boat until it eventually sink it,” Mrs Khayum said.

Mrs Khayum said she was disoriented for a while but recalled asking for her husband several times.

The damaged engine

When I catch myself I was in the water, I was fighting up…I keep stretching my hand to see if I can hold onto something but there was nothing. A little while after I feel a man so I hold unto his pants and he keep pushing me down, he was losing my fingers…I keep scrambling, I kick up my foot. I cannot swim, but I remembered clinging to dear life, I was not giving up, I gathered all my energies and yelled help with everything I had left in me before I lost consciousness,” Mrs Khayum recounted.

When she regained consciousness, she was at the Charity Wharf where an army rank was performing CPR. She was then rushed to the Charity Hospital where she was admitted.

The GDF vessel involved in the accident

The GDF vessel was returning from Charity to the Floating Base with four ranks when the accident occurred. The ranks were seen drinking before leaving for the Army’s floating base at the mouth of the Pomeroon River. It was also reported that the vessel had no headlights.

“That Coast Guard boat did not have on their lights. I have seen that vessel when the lights were on, it can flood the entire river with light. …and where this incident happen the neighbour had bright lights and we had a light in our boat,” Mrs Khayum said.

Police and army ranks spent two days searching for the missing Mr Khayum without any success. It was until Mrs Khayum was discharged from the hospital that she led the search team to where the accident occurred and the body was discovered floating in the river.

The couple was together for ten years.

Mrs Khayum explained that she and husband did farming but also bought produce from other farmers in the Pomeroon.

She estimates that about $100,000 in goods went down when the boat crashed; another $380,000 which was earned from sales was also lost. The boat, which was a rental, is badly damaged and the engine is beyond repair.

Regional Commander Superintendent Crystal Robinson told the News Room that the investigation into the accident was completed and the file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for legal advice.

The Captain of the GDF vessel was arrested and subsequently placed on station bail, while the three other GDF ranks were put in the custody of the Army.

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