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Nov 21, 2005

Tourism Board comments on recent spate of tourist deaths

Story PictureThe last two months have not been good for Belize’s tourism industry. On October twenty-second, twenty-eight year old Abigail Brinkman lost her life when she and three other tourists tried to swim to a nearby caye after their boat experienced engine trouble. Then on November thirteenth, a backpacker, twenty year old Julia Armstrong Minard, was found strangled to death in the bushes near Indian Creek Village in the Toledo District. On November fourteenth, sixty-eight year old snorkeller John Dresp went missing off in the waters near Caye Caulker. His body has yet to be recovered. Four days later, on November eighteenth, newlyweds Douglas and Cristy Scratchley and their pilot, Belizean Rene Luis Tam, died after their private charter crashed into the pine forests three miles from their destination. All told, six lives lost in eerie succession. Today, the Belize Tourism Board is reeling from the impact of the accidents on the country’s track record, but this morning director Tracy Taegar-Panton says support from international counterparts has bolstered its spirits. According to Taegar-Panton, the plan now is to rebuild Belize’s image in the eyes of the world.

Tracy Taegar-Panton, Director, Belize Tourism Board
?We have had an exemplary safety record and so we are deeply concerned. The Tourism Board is obviously very deeply concerned, but we are also aware that there are different circumstances revolving around each case and where the consuming public will only see that we have lost five lives, I think we need to treat each case separately and report on them separately so that hopefully the consuming public can know that safety and security is a major area of concern for us and one that we treat with a lot of diligence.?

?There is going to be a safety and security task force that is put together, convened, which is going to be spearheaded by the B.T.B. to ensure that we look at the issues where negligence is not a factor, to look at the issues of weather conditions and how it impacts our operations and what steps really should be put in place.?

According to local police, the search continues for John Dresp. We understand however, that rough conditions at sea in the days after the incident have complicated efforts.

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