THIRTEEN-year-old Steffhan Philbert collapsed and died as a result of an asthma attack while on a hike to Paria on Saturday. He had this ailment as a toddler but his relatives thought he had outgrown the condition.
Steffhan lived with his mother, Alisha Philbert and other relatives at Campo Street, San Juan and during his brief life he made a positive impression on them all, said his uncle Emile Serrette who spoke to the Express yesterday afternoon.
Serrette said his nephew was big. “I mean at age thirteen he was already six feet, two inches,” Serrette said. “He was not fat but he was strapping. We called him a gentle giant...he was really a nice boy.”
On Saturday morning around 8 a.m. Philbert, his twin cousins aged 15 and his eleven-year-old sister all piled into Serrette’s Toyota Hilux. The hike began from the suspension bridge in Blanchisseuse where he parked the van.
Serrette said he noticed that Philbert kept complaining about the hills.
“I gave him short rests in between but we were moving at a slow pace,” said Serrette.
He added that he allowed Philbert to drink water from the several streams they encountered, “because I wanted him to cool down as the forest was very humid that day”.
They got to a area known as Turtle Rock which was a relatively short distance from the Paria River.
“By then he took a turn for the worse. He said he was dizzy and feeling unwell and my intention was to let him stay there for as long as he wanted,” said Serrette. “As we approached the rock he began drifting and then I realised that whatever was happening to him he was getting worse.”
Serrette said Philbert rested for ten minutes on Turtle Rock following which the boy suddenly sat up, ran into the bushes and fell. Serrette said his nephew began losing his sense of hearing and, “now I had to shout questions at him about how he was feeling and so on”.
“He then began speaking gibberish and I could not understand him at all but one of the other children recalled him saying... ‘allyuh let me go nah they calling me’”.
“I called the Blanchisseuse Police to let them know what was going on and that this was a matter of life and death but I understood they could not do much given where they were,” said Serrette.
With the help of two other hikers (Americans) they wrestled the makeshift stretcher through the bushes to Senna Bay where he met up with a boatman who could take Philbert by sea to Blanchisseuse.
Serrette said EHS workers rushed Steffhan to the Port of Spain General Hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival.