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Nov 13, 2017

Families of Mark Leslie & Myrna Vasquez Mourn after Horrific Accident

Myrna Vasquez & Mark Leslie

A fatal traffic accident on the Southern Highway claimed the lives of two well-known residents of Placencia.  The couple was returning home along with their teenage daughter in anticipation of a birthday celebration when the collision occurred. Mark Leslie and Myrna Vasquez were travelling in a small car when an SUV driven at the time by Delmar Ortega, crashed into them as he attempted to overtake a tractor. The couple perished on impact, while their daughter and other persons travelling in the SUV, survived the horrible accident. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Well-known tour operator Mark Leslie and his wife Myra were returning from Belize City, along with seventeen-year-old Aurora Sanchez on Friday evening.  The trio was en route to Placencia where Mark and his childhood friend Gareth Longsworth were planning to celebrate their birthdays this past weekend.  The trip home turned tragic when they turned onto the Southern Highway.

 

Gareth Longsworth

Gareth Longsworth, Friend of Deceased

“He said, “Gareth, you go ahead and get the barbecue grill ready, I wahn bring di Kahlua and gin cause dat dah weh we normally have.”  And so he went to Belize City to pick up his stepdaughter because her birthday is actually today and so they were going to celebrate with us on the weekend and send her back on the plane yesterday.  Good friend mein, for life.  Very tragic moment when we got the news, you know, and we wondered if we should do the party, if we should hang out, what to do.  So we still we’d still go through it, sad times.”

 

Aurora Sanchez

Leslie and his family were traveling in a white Toyota Corolla near miles eleven and twelve on that stretch of road when another vehicle carrying four persons, including a five-year-old child, collided violently into them.  The massive impact of the crash immobilized the teenager.  Leslie’s mother, Lorna Diaz, recounts what happened next.

 

Lorna Grace Diaz, Mother of Deceased

“She couldn’t move, I guess, either, from where she was, you know, because I think she probably hit the back of Mark’s seat and she saw her dad like that, slumped, you know.  But then she thought he wasn’t dead, so she kept trying to, you know, trying to get his shoulder but that’s when his head went like that and I guess that’s when she realized that his neck was broken.  That’s what the grandmother told me that she told her, and then she just lost consciousness after that.”

 

An eyewitness who narrowly escaped the accident, post on Facebook sometime thereafter the harrowing details of what he experienced.  According to that individual, whose identity remains anonymous, he says, “What actually happened was that I overtook the family and they were a safe distance behind me, driving about forty-five miles per hour.  Two minutes later I noticed a trailer heading towards the Hopkins junction and a vehicle approaching rapidly behind it.  I thought he had enough time to slow down but he was too fast.  He swerved into my lane and that’s when my reflex came in.  A quick turn to the right, dodging the entire van, only clipping my vehicle’s side mirror, resulting in him hitting head on into the family.  It was a horrible experience as we went to assist them because we were the only ones on the road.  What I saw was heartbreaking.”

 

Joseph Myvett

ACP Joseph Myvett, Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch

“An SUV, Chevy Envoy, I believe, GMC Envoy, traveling in the opposite direction, was attempting to overtake a tractor with a trailer.  As a consequence, the SUV collided into the car causing both persons to die on impact.  The SUV then burst into flames.  At the time the SUV had four occupants who all received varied degrees of injuries.  They are all hospitalized at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.  This investigation is ongoing.”

 

The ominous call to Mark’s mother came from another family member who was inquiring about the deadly incident.  On their way to Belize City, Mark and Myrna had dropped his mother off in Dangriga.  That’s the last she’d see them alive.

 

Lorna Grace Diaz

Lorna Grace Diaz

“My nephew called and said that Mark and his wife got in an accident and both of them died, you know.  Well we started calling around to get some gasoline because the gas station was closed and we finally, around eleven o’clock, we left from here and we went up to Dangriga.  Well we stopped by the accident and we got out and were searching around the car to see if we could find anything that the police missed and we did.  I don’t know what kind of search they did , but we realized that we didn’t find his wallet, we didn’t find his pouch and most of the things that he bought for his boat were gone.”

 

Those items may have been removed from the scene.  Diaz, however, tells News Five that the most important items that remain unaccounted for are her son’s personal effects, documents which include his identification cards.  Gareth, who has been with Mark in the tourism sector since they were both teenagers, says that he will be greatly missed from the local industry.

 

Gareth Longsworth

“Mark and I started out as sea kayak guides, so we did trips all around like the southern area here, Lighthouse Reef.  Just an overall good guy, humble guy and good, good friend, it’s tough.”

 

The loss, despite its gravity, hasn’t quite dawned on the mother as yet.

 

Isani Cayetano

“It’s a wonder that you’ve been able to maintain your composure, given the magnitude of this tragedy.  How have you been able to hold up?”

 

Lorna Grace Diaz

“Well I am, I guess my faith in God.  I’m a Christian and I am, I have a strong faith in God, you know, and I pray for strength to deal with this, you know, and up until know I must say that I am doing okay.”

 

News Five attempted to speak with Vasquez’s family earlier today.  They respectfully declined comment.  Meanwhile, the driver of the vehicle that purportedly cause the fatal accident has been identified as thirty-five-year-old Delmar Ortega. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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