KINGSTOWN – Desron Rodriguez, the polarising figure nicknamed Lavaman for daredevil climbs up the erupting La Soufriere volcano on Friday denied defying disaster regulations, after spending nearly 48 hours in police custody.
Declaring he committed no crime, he told Barbados TODAY of an ordeal in which after turning himself in to the police chief along with his attorney, he was allowed to go home, only to be nabbed there by officers the very next day.
He also said police officers surrounded his mother’s home with guns drawn while he was elsewhere in the Grenadines.
Rodriguez, 34, who was held on Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of breaching the National Emergency Act was released on Thursday but remains under investigation.
The certified tour guide’s social media posts and videos from the inferno have been condemned as “absolutely dotish and absolutely foolish”, by top University of the West Indies volcanologist Professor Richard Robinson, This followed the release of photos suggesting that Rodriguez had ventured to the volcano’s summit last Sunday.
Earlier this week, Acting Police Commissioner Colin John, in confirming Rodriguez’s arrest, said that once declared an evacuation area, permission must be sought from the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) to enter the zone.
In a wide-ranging interview with Barbados TODAY, Rodriguez said that days before the arrest, he received a phone call from a law enforcement official asking him where he was. He was also told that his mother wanted him and later that the authorities needed to “reason” with him.
“I asked the question again ‘why’ because I need to know the main reason why they want me to go to the station. Me ain’t break no law. Me ain’t commit no crime, but they say they need to reason with me in person,” Rodriguez told Barbados TODAY.
It was then, he was informed that his mother’s house had been surrounded with guns, but by then was in the neighbouring Grenadine island of Bequia.
Rodriguez said: “My mother was stressed out and crying because they came to her house and surrounded her house with guns as if I am some kind of criminal and I didn’t like that. So I reached out to my lawyer, explained the situation and we decided to go to the Central Police Station in Kingstown… where we met the Acting Commissioner and basically they said they didn’t want to see me.”
Then on Tuesday, officers pulled up outside his home and held him. He was detained at the Biabou Police Station to be investigated for venturing into the red zone beyond the evacuation area on April 8.
Rodriguez was interviewed by police with his lawyer present and after a word with the commissioner, he was released, he told Barbados TODAY, adding that while they said he is under investigation, he will have to report once again on Friday.
“I guess they want to go over the video to decide whether to charge me or not, but there is no law which I broke, so there is nothing really to charge me for, but we will see what happens,” he said.
Rodriguez, who owns Paradise Adventures, revealed that his fascination with the destructive volcano is linked to his study of petroglyphs, ancient writings on rocks left by the indigenous civilisation that dominated the area well beyond the time of European colonisation in 1719. The Carib community in the shadow of the volcano was nearly wiped out by La Soufriere’s violent eruption on May 6, 1902, an event now being compared with this year’s blasts.
While the stones are found across the Vincentian landscape, Rodriguez, who is from the parish of Charlotte, explained that a particular petroglyph in the village of Layou in northern St Vincent speaks specifically about La Soufriere. He and friend Ade Janna purport to have a special connection with the volcano.
Rodriguez told Barbados TODAY: “When I got into tour guiding, I didn’t know the names of the rocks with the writing on them and when I went into training, I got the name petroglyph, I heard some stuff about them and then I started to do further investigations to know what is what, because I notice not much Vincentians are paying attention to them, but there are tourists who actually visit the country to know the history of the country.”
In response to Professor Robinson’s criticism of his actions, Rodriguez replied: “Everybody has their own opinion. Me, for sure I don’t focus on negative energy, so I really don’t have the professor to study. If you all didn’t tell me about that, I wouldn’t even know about that.”
Rodriguez claimed it was only after climbing down from the volcano that it began to explode.
“You could say that we are fearless. Ain’t no fear with me,” Rodriguez declared.
Janna explained that after they left the summit, they participated in a massive evacuation effort.
He said: “After the volcano erupted we ventured into the danger zone to take people out from the danger zone.
“I almost lost my windscreen because stones were falling. 9 a.m. was like 9 p.m. We were in darkness taking people out because people were not prepared. So it erupted on the 9th and we were there on the 10th… shuffling people from out of the red zone all day.”
Rodriguez, who lives with his 12-year old daughter along with his mother, and Janna, father of a five-year-old, declared that members of the public have no reason to fear their activities.
“Those are the people who are supposed to be worried about us, so if our families are not worried about us, I can’t understand why the community and the nation would be worried, because they don’t know us. Our families are not worried,” Janna declared. “We don’t advise people to go down there.”
About the Lavaman sobriquet, Rodriquez quipped: “That’s what everybody calls me, but I prefer Desron Rodriguez. That’s my name, but if you choose to call me ‘Lavaman’, then so be it.
“We never did anything for attention. We only do it for the love.
But with legal consequences on the horizon, the duo declined to disclose any next steps to the towering inferno.