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Philmore dies from cardiac arrest

Monday, October 1, 2018

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One week after suffering severe injuries in a car crash in Claxton Bay, steelpan icon Ken “Professor” Philmore died of cardiac arrest yesterday morning at the San Fernando General Hospital.

Philmore, who had been sedated following major surgery on Wednesday, was put on life support at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Sunday morning because he could no longer breathe on his own. He went into cardiac arrest yesterday morning and despite attempts by doctors to resuscitate him, was pronounced dead at 9.05 am. His wife Sophia was standing in the lobby at the time of his death.

South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) Medical Director of Health Dr Albert Persaud said medical staff did everything they could to save Philmore, but his injuries were severe. Persaud said Philmore had been in critical condition since the accident on Republic Day with injuries to his ribs and lungs.

“We did everything possible and he got the best treatment that Trinidad and Tobago could have afforded him, which was as good as anywhere else in the world. Sometimes people sustain injuries that put them on a very critical list. We, of course, are taken aback by his passing, but he was badly injured,” Persaud said.

Philmore, 59, of Maracas, St Joseph, was driving north along the highway around 8.45 am on September 24 when his Toyota Hilux pick-up skidded on the roadway at Claxton Bay and landed in bushes at the side of the highway. Philmore was thrown from the vehicle.

His wife Sophia said he was returning home from a performance in south Trinidad at the time of the accident.

Officers from the Highway Patrol Unit found him and took him to the hospital where he immediately underwent a computerised tomography scan which showed fractured ribs and a punctured lung. He then underwent a procedure to remove fluid from his lungs.

On Tuesday, Philmore had surgery to stop internal haemorrhaging and was taken to the ICU. However, he suffered two heart attacks and doctors had sedated him to allow him a chance of recovery.

News of his death shook the steelpan fraternity. Milton “Wire” Austin, CEO of Fonclaire Steel Orchestra, the band that earned its biggest Panorama successes with Philmore arrangements, said T&T had lost a good soul.

In an interview at his home in San Fernando yesterday, Austin said he first met Philmore in 1986 when he did his first arrangement for the band, Lord Kitchener’s Pan Here to Stay, leading the band to third place in that year’s Panorama followed by consecutive second place finishes in 1989 and 1990.

“At 1990, this was his hallmark year. It was Pan By Storm. I will say that we got robbed. They can say what they want, we got robbed and he knew that too,” Austin recalled. “It was a hard pill to swallow then and it was still a hard pill to swallow today.

“In 91 and 92, he kept going, he kept knocking on the door. He told me, ‘You know what Wire, best you move the band to Port-of-Spain, you might win a Panorama.’ The north-south bias, it goes and goes and he always had a problem with that.”

Former minister Joan Yuille-Williams said Philmore’s death was a great loss to the nation. Yuille-Williams, who was at the San Fernando General Hospital after meeting with Philmore’s widow, Sophia, said she was at a polling station for the PNM’s internal election when she heard the news of his passing.

“I could not believe it and that was the reason why I hustled like that. I had to come to the hospital myself to really believe that it was so. We were really good friends,” she said.

Yuille-Williams said Philmore was always willing to share his knowledge of music with young players and during her time as a minister, he often volunteered to help youngsters.

“He is very difficult to replace. I can tell you that. Yes, we have talented players, but there was something special about the Professor. He lived up to his name, the Professor—one of our best teachers of the music,” she said.

San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello said yesterday was a sad day for the city as it had lost a son of the soil. He described Philmore, who grew up in Pleasantville, San Fernando, as charismatic and everything that the steelpan represented.“I don’t know how we will treat with this. It is a loss for us as his talents epitomised the soul and the character of the instrument. If you had seen him perform, you’d understand what I am talking about,” Regrello said.

The mayor said he had already sent a message to Philmore’s widow stating that the San Fernando City Corporation stands ready to assist with funeral arrangements.


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