The trial of the four Maritime cadets whose lives were lost at sea is gaining steam at the Civil Law Court of Montserrado County as family members have all testified that the bodies of their relatives were turned over to them in deplorable conditions.
At yesterday’s trial, a brother of Cadet Henry D. Bryant told the court that the corpse of his brother was left to the family to bury and that they had to shoulder the burial cost along with friends while the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) showed no concern.
Mr. Curtis Bryant who claimed to be the younger brother and sole contributor with receipts for burying his brother said he spoke briefly with Henry on the morning before his fateful demise.
He said his brother was a certified swimmer and to get drowned was mystifying to family members, a statement the seventh witness, Pate Chon, a sister to the deceased attested to while also on the stand.
Curtis said from the initial stage of retrieving the body from the lagoon at Musa’s Beach on September 27, 2012, the Maritime authority informed them that it was the Authority’s responsibility to take the bodies from the beaches and find a funeral home while it arranges funeral rites.
Curtis said the family were even denied taking the body of Henry from the lagoon where the body was discovered even when a heavy downpour began noting, “when other bodies were found and all were taken to the John F. Kennedy Hospital, the Maritime still insisted that we (the family members) remained in the back because the men were in their employ,” Curtis maintained.
He further told the court that at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor where all bodies were initially deposited, the authority of Maritime again shouldered the responsibility when the funeral home authority wanted to get information surrounding the deaths of the men.
According to the Maritime officials, they were in charge as per the Authority’s policy little did the family come to know that the entire arrangement would end up without a common understanding.
Curtis said they succeeded in getting the bodies at the funeral home but that was where their arrangement stopped because following the depositing of the bodies; no word was said further concerning the deceased to the family any longer.
He said after waiting for some time, they had to take their complaint to the Liberia National Police where the Inspector General informed them that he had no further information on the deaths.
Curtis said then it became an issue that the families could not find rest about therefore they told the Authority that they wanted to bury. “They gave us decomposed bodies but by the help of family members our dead was buried,” Curtis explained.
In his testimony, Curtis accused the Liberia Maritime Authority Commissioner, Binyah Kesselly of preventing other cadets from speaking on the matter to the press on the beach with a remark, “This is the result when people don’t take instruction and go on jolly-jolly.”
While the father of Cadet Patrick Ansumana, Jr. testified in court that they had to take the matter up with the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia National Police because their quest for justice had grown.
Mr. Ansumana Sr. serving as plaintiff’s fifth witness corroborated previous testimonies that nobody seemed wanting to speak with the families on the matter adding, “We waited four days and then we came to the Supreme Court with our matter and Cllr. Philip Banks instructed them to show us our bodies that we could bury.”
He told the court under oath that it was not to his knowledge if the authority of Maritime has ever requested to assist the families with the burial.
Witness Chon said information gathered from a friend who is fond of going on the beach early morning, her brother Henry Bryant drowned while attempting to save other cadets who were drowning.
She said that she was concerned about his death because he was a great swimmer, while the fourth witness, Isaac Wilson testified that his brother, Cadet J. Eddie Wilson was buried with only one eye.
The plaintiffs have already produced all seven witnesses all of whom were personal representatives providing the trial with brief general testimonies. The trial continues today at 10 a.m. C. Winnie Saywah writes.