Missing at sea, man safely rescued on Ambergris Caye

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

The search for a missing man at sea off the western coast of Ambergris Caye ended when he was located safe and sound. The incident occurred on Saturday, February 27th, with Rickilee Response and Rescue or Triple R Rescue team leading the search.

According to a preliminary report, a U. S. National, William James Hespe Jr., who owns property north of Secret Beach, was seen leaving on a paddleboard around 8:30AM. Hespe was supposed to meet with tour guides at an area known as Bracelets Lagoon between 9:30-10AM but failed to show up. After attempts to locate him were unsuccessful, they contacted Triple R.

Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie, head of Triple R, was contacted around 3:54PM. Leslie immediately recognized the urgency with the remaining daylight. Together with his colleague National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) District Emergency Coordinator for Belize Rural South, Vanessa Parham, he organized an interagency collaboration with the assistance of other entities like NEMO and local police with Coast Guard on standby.  Triple R quickly deployed their newly acquired jet skis and two boats to Secret Beach, where a strategy was set, and the search began.

After not locating him on the first sweep, it was agreed that air search was necessary. The services of Astrum helicopters were unavailable, and although not operating at the time, Tropic Air responded to the emergency. Sometime later, they spotted Hespe by the aircraft, and his location was given for pick up.

According to rescuers, Hespe had drifted over ten miles and was dehydrated. After further checks, he was deemed to be in good condition. The collective efforts of all paid off and Triple R said it continues to educate, empower, and enhance effective and efficient emergency response.

The incident took place one day before Triple R’s fourth anniversary celebrating the life of Rickilee Mercer. Mercer was found dead off the west coast of the island after reported missing at sea. According to reports, Mercer was on a jet ski and may have fallen into the water. The cause of her death was ruled as drowning. In her honor and to avoid future similar tragedies, Triple R was created.

Special recognition goes to Triple R, Phillip Leslie, Vanessa Parham, Michael Cain, Eddie Arcona, Elito Arceo, Robert Bradley, Tropic Air, Police, and the Triple R team members who were on standby ready to help.

Photos courtesy of Triple R


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