Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Swimmers reminded to practice water safety when swimming from the beach

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Swimming off the northern beaches may be tempting for many, as the second-longest barrier reef is close to shore, and the water between the beach and the reef is inviting. However, swimmers should not go beyond specific points from the shore of the dock to prevent serious accidents.
Four distressed tourists were swimming beyond the dock on Monday, April 8th, at 4PM. Boat Captain Jaime Vasquez, “Chino,” assisted the tourists. During an interview, Vasquez said he saw the tourists swimming far away from the dock while returning from picking up one of his vessels. At first, he thought they were dolphins, as he couldn’t distinguish what they were clearly due to the sun’s glare, especially around that time of the day. However, as he got closer, he noticed it was tourists swimming well beyond the dock. He approached them and told them not to swim so far out because it is a dangerous area highly trafficked by boats, and swimming is not allowed there.
Vasquez also mentioned that two vessels came from opposite sides as he addressed the tourists. He stated that an accident could have occurred if he hadn’t been there that day. As a tour guide, he wants to address the matter and make it known to all resorts in San Pedro to emphasize the rule to their guests not to swim beyond docks. He also suggests that resorts post signs indicating that swimming beyond the swim zone is not allowed to remind them of the risks.
Reports from first responders and other tour guides show an increase in visitors who are not observing the dock and channel markers and are swimming into unsafe water. Mariners are also reminded to be alert for swimmers when approaching the swimming zone and accessing the channel markers. While some are tempted to swim towards the reef to snorkel, passing through active boating lanes can be dangerous.
Additionally, tour operators on the island urge people to make themselves visible when swimming into areas frequented by boats. One suggestion includes using a kayak, buoy, or flag towing. Tour operators suggest that applying any of these suggestions will increase the chances of being seen by a boat captain and prevent accidents. Some boat captains also shared that when they see someone swimming near the reef with a kayak or buoy, they slow down and go around to avoid accidents.

Logan Ceylon Pratt

One of the most recent significant incidents to have occurred was the boating accident case that killed 17-year-old Logan Ceylon Pratt in February 2023. The official report states that Pratt and her mother, Tamra Pratt, were swimming in the sea off the northern coast of Ambergris Caye when a boat operated by local tour guide Jesse Smith ran over her. The boat collision left her with severe injuries, causing her death. The incident shocked the island community and prompted many to advocate more enforced safety water measures to avoid future tragedies. However, recent encounters by tour operators have claimed that tourists are still not following swimming safety regulations.
Stakeholders reiterated that they want visitors’ vacation on Ambergris Caye to be memorable and enjoyable, but they also encourage them to be safe while exploring our natural wonders.

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