Diver Succumbs to Injuries; Boat Captain Fails to Report Accident to Authorities

Thursday, March 5th, 2015


An American who was vacationing on Ambergris Caye succumbed to injuries after he was involved in an accident while on a dive trip. The accident occurred on February 18th near The Elbow dive site on the southernmost tip of the Turneffe Atoll off the coastline of Belize. The deceased, 61-year-old Gary McNabb, a Scuba Diver Instructor, was on an expedition on a vessel belonging to Ramon’s Village Resort Dive Shop when he was injured while entering the water for a dive. The investigation, however, has taken an entirely different angle as the accident was never reported to police or the Belize Port Authority.

According to San Pedro Police, the Boat Captain, 31-year-old Marcus Alamina of a DFC Area of San Pedro Town did not report the accident until March 2nd, ten days later, after it was learned that McNabb succumbed to his injuries on February 27th. Alamina told police that on the day of the incident, McNabb along with a guide entered into the water for a dive at The Elbow. A few moments later, blood was seen on the surface and McNabb was observed floating. Alamina claims that McNabb was quickly retrieved from the water and was observed with an injury to the head. CPR was performed while underway to Belize City.

According to police, the 61-year-old, who had frequented Belize on several occasions, was taken to Belize Health Care Partners Ltd., where he was admitted in an unconscious state. Police say that so far, their investigation shows that surgery was performed on McNabb the same day. However, arrangements were made, without notifying the authorities, to have the critically injured man transferred via an air ambulance to the United States of America. “No one was notified. The Port Authority was not notified, the police was not notified and neither did they inform the US Embassy in Belize,” stated Inspector of Police Henry Jemott.

While police and the Belize Port Authority only learned of the accident via street intelligence, they have now begun an investigation. Police have questioned Alamina, who gave an official police report. He claims that the vessel he was captaining was on throttle mode at the time of the incident. When questioned why he failed to report the accident to the rightful authority, Alamina told police that he reported the accident to the manager of the company, Einer Gomez.”

While the police are still in the investigation stage, they did confirm that McNabb died on the 28th of February. “We are putting our investigation together and we will be in touch with the US Embassy to try and get the ‘cause of death certificate.’ This is a joint investigation but the Belize Port Authority will lead the investigation since it’s a maritime offence. Initially, we can say that it was negligence not to report a boating accident and so the captain will be charged with failure to report a boating accident at the initial stage. More charges are possible,” outlined Jemott.

Turneffe AtollIn a press release issued on March 3rd by Ramon’s Village Resort, they explained the unfortunate accident. “Mr. Gary McNabb was part of a group of ten divers on a dive trip to ‘The Elbow’ at Turneffe Atoll when he was apparently swept under the dive boat and struck on the head by a part of the boat. After a thorough discussion of the accident, Ramon’s Village Divers staff confirmed that although the boat engine was running, the prop was not engaged at the time of the accident and that the dive boat was positioned to drift away from the divers who were entering the water.”

According to the release, prior to the accident, divers were fully briefed on entering and exiting the water during the pre-dive briefing since the sea conditions were noted as being choppy, but not more concerning than usual for the area. The release explains that the dive master conducting the briefing suggested using a rough water entry. In addition, divers were advised to use a giant stride for entry into the water off the sides of the dive platform and to free descent to a depth of 30 feet where they would gather and wait at the descent rope.

“One of Ramon’s Village dive masters entered the water at the same time as Mr. McNabb and looked up to see Mr. McNabb partially under the dive platform of the boat. Mr. McNabb was rescued from under the boat, brought aboard the dive boat and CPR and first aid administered at which time Mr. McNabb began breathing on his own and regained consciousness. Mr. McNabb was transported by boat to Belize City to a waiting ambulance and transported to Health Care Partners Ltd. Hospital for treatment,” added the statement. It explained that the following day, McNabb was flown to a hospital in San Antonio Texas, USA where he died days later. “The management and staff of Ramon’s Village Divers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Gary McNabb. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. McNabb’s family and friends during this difficult time,” ended the statement.

The management of Ramon’s Village Resort did say that as with any diving incident resulting in an injury or death, an investigation of all relevant facts is underway and will be transmitted to authorities in Belize. According to Gomez, the Manager of Ramon’s Village Resort, the accident was reported to the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and PADI Dive Network. He did admit that the accident was not reported to authorities after being overwhelmed by the entire situation.

According to Belize Ports Commissioner Merlene Bailey Martinez, they were unaware of the incident and they only became aware when they were notified by San Pedro Police on March 2nd. She did say that while they are at an early stage of inquiry, it is a grave offence not to report a maritime incident. “The requirement to report a marine accident or a casualty falls on the captain… failure to report an accident is a grave offence if found that the captain breached either the Harbor and Merchant Shipping Act or the Port Authority Act,” stated Martinez.

The Belize Port Authority has set up a team that will investigate the accident. Meanwhile, there has been no official word from the BTB, the only Belizean organization the accident was reported to. A spokesperson at the BTB told The San Pedro Sun that there was no comment or statement to be made at this time when questioned why they did not engage the rightful authorities in the investigation.

McNabb, who is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee USA was residing in Saint Petersburg, Florida, with his wife Frances Beasley.


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