Belize Coast Guard vessel sinks in Chetumal Bay; 8 rescued by SP Belize Express and Mexican authorities
Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
There has been no official release but The San Pedro Sun can confirm that a vessel belonging to the Belize Coast Guard sank outside of Chetumal City on Friday, June 15th. On board the vessel that sank were eight people, including two Belizeans that had been arrested for smuggling contraband goods from Mexico to Belize.
The incident occurred around 1PM on Friday when a small vessel belonging to the Belize Coast Guard was in the process of transporting the two smugglers to Consejo Village in the Corozal District. The men were detained moments after leaving from Mexican territory into Belizean waters in the Bay of Chetumal. According to El Diario de Quintana Roo, a Mexican newspaper, the Belizean Coast Guard placed two dories inside the small vessel along with the contraband goods. While heading to the Consejo Customs Department Office the boat sank after choppy conditions combined with the excess weight from the contraband goods and dories caused the vessel to take in water causing it to sink.
To alert people, the Belize Coast Guard officers decided to fire a number of shots in the air just before sinking. After hearing the gun shots personnel of the Chetumal Port Authority located on the Muelle Fiscal spotted the Belize Coast Guard in distress. In speaking to the Mexican Press, Captain in charge of the Chetumal Port Authority Alvaro Flores said that he immediately sought the assistance of a Belizean water taxi to help in the rescue efforts even though it was in Belizean waters.
The vessel that responded belongs to San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi Limited. According to Abel Delgado, one of the employees at the water taxi company, within 15 minutes from the municipal pier in Chetumal, they were able to reach the scene and assist in the rescue efforts. “We rescued eight people including two cayukeros (smugglers) and six others which included Coast Guard, Customs Officers and Police. They were travelling from the Rio Hondo River area towards the direction of Consejo Village. It was very choppy and with the amount of things they had in the vessel began to take in water and eventually sank. They had their guns which they used to fire a few shots to alert people. Seven of the people were found drifting in the area where the vessel sank and another person was holding on to a dory which was drifting,” explained Delgado.
The law enforcement agencies, including the Coast Guard and the two smugglers were taken to Chetumal and later that evening were transported to Consejo Village. Delgado explained that the vessel sank with all its cargo except for the firearm which the Coast Guard held on to. According to Mexican reports, the vessel was taken out of the water on Saturday, June 16th and brought to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye for repairs. In a statement from the Director of Civil Defense in Chetumal City, Mexico, Luis Carlos Rodriguez Hoy, explained that the operation was necessary to help in the rescue efforts of their Belizean counterparts and if possible the vessel. Rodriguez-Hoy explained that no Mexican law was broken as speculated in the local press and the rescue efforts were done in Belizean waters, a quarter of a mile south of the Belize-Mexico border off the coast of Chetumal City.
There has been no statement from the Belize National Coast Guard regarding the incident at sea. The San Pedro Sun placed multiple calls in an effort to speak to the Operation Manager but all attempts have been futile.