When 20-year-old Devante Lalla disappeared under the water while trying to save his younger brother from drowning at Three Pools, Blanchisseuse, his brothers frantically searched for something to toss into the water to save him. With nothing in reach, Devante was not found until four hours later when Coast Guard divers discovered his body pinned under a log at the bottom of the river.
Within months of Devante’s death on August 20, 2017, two other young men—Isaiah Mitchell and Akil Stafford, both aged 23—drowned at Three Pools. Devante’s father, Dennis Lalla, his brothers and a small group of volunteers came together to put up caution signs and life preservers at the popular hiking destination in northern Trinidad.
“My son really chose a beautiful place to die,” 55-year-old Lalla said on Thursday, perched on the rocks overlooking the serene water. “Sometimes the beauty of this place can blind people from the dangers of the place.”
Lalla still grieves deeply for his son. It takes strength for him and his two sons to leave their home in Chaguanas and return to the place where Devante spent his final moments. Lalla moves cautiously along the trek, warning others to tread carefully. He has a deep respect for the dangers of the hike. The terrain is mostly flat and rocky, which makes it easy to forget the risks posed by protruding tree roots and slippery moss.
But neither he nor his sons can muster the will to go into the water.
“My first trip here last year when we came to put the signs, it was an emotional one. It was an eerie feeling being here, just seeing where my son took his last breath. There was a feeling—I can’t really describe it. Right now my pores are raising just speaking to you.”
Still, Lalla periodically visits the site to check up on the signs and life preservers and to clean the area.
“We just saw it as the right thing to do. It was the human thing to do. We see this as the healing process. My two other sons came with me when we put up these signs because they were here when they witnessed their brother drowned and we just thought that was just part of them dealing with the tragedy,” he said.
“Maybe if we had things like this he would’ve been alive today. What I went through, I really don’t want any other parent to go through.”
His efforts helped save the life of at least one person so far, Lalla said. However, some visitors to the spot have been stealing the life rings, which is why Lalla is now appealing to the public to be considerate and replace them after use.
He takes solace in his belief that Devante would be proud of their initiative.