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May 31, 2000

Survivor shot in back, spends 17 hours in water

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While the casualties were being counted in Punta Gorda surviving passenger Larry Smith was being operated on at the KHMH in Belize City. The 49-year old Smith, an American by birth and Naturalized Belizean, is a hotel owner in P.G. who has lived in Belize for the last 27 years. He told News Five’s Stewart Krohn that he arrived at the wharf in Puerto Barrios just before the boat departed…and had no inkling that among his fellow passengers were three cold-blooded killers. A short ways out to sea two of the three men pulled out pistols and began shooting. When the high powered boat began to go out of control Smith went into action.

Larry Smith, Survivor

“After that I jumped up and tried to mash the controls so the boat wouldn’t go out of control. It was going out of control and then they shot me from behind. The impact knocked me out into the water. Then they proceeded to shoot the second guy…the marine guy. They shot him about 5 times then they threw him out with me without life preservers. They figured we were taken care of and so they were a good ways up and proceeded to try and kill the captain. After they shot him, he jumped in the water a good ways up and they shot in the water and he dived and they never got him again. Then they circled several times, trying to resurface him and shootat him. He managed to stay down long enough that bullets never penetrated far enough in the water to get him. Then after a few minutes, they threw out all the life jackets, with the women, the old man and everybody else. In the mean time, they shot another guy. I think he was just a passenger, from what I understand. At that point the boat was a good ways away. After it took off, then in the meantime, the skipper said goodbye to us and sank leaving me there. I swam for a good ways until I caught up with all the women and the captain and those that were floating here and there.”

Stewart Krohn

“They had life jackets?”

Larry Smith

“They were all getting life jackets. One guy had 6 around him. They were scattered and I tried to get as many people together as I could and some listened and some didn’t. The ones that didn’t listen, they just kind of disappeared and drowned in front of us. I think it was because of panic. From there, there was 5 or 6 of us in a cluster and they started going off until there were only 3 of us. We stayed there and drifted about 18 miles from the Manabique point in Guatemala to the Sarstoon in Southern Belize. And we stayed through the night and we lost one of the other guys from Big Falls, a guy named Jose. His stamina was not enough to hold out because it was rough and it was very hard. The young lady we put in between us and tried to save her.”

Stewart Krohn

“What happened to her?”

Larry Smith

“She’s okay. And we drifted into the Sarstoon and we started to see an airplane go over, but it was just a Tropic Air that was a scheduled flight, but I thought they called them to circle. They weren’t close to where we were and we didn’t see anybody other than that, the whole 17 hours that we were in the water. As we were getting close to the mouth of the river, it was…the tide was pulling us in and a fisherman came, fishing with his nets and I began to whistle. As we got to the top of the waves, as we drift and go up on the wave I would whistle far in and they finally heard us and came and pulled us out of the water and brought us to Punta Gorda.”

Smith told News Five that there was no attempt at robbery, even though a number of people were wearing jewelry and traveling with ample cash. The killers and their newly acquired boat were last seen heading toward the mouth of the Sarstoon River. At this time the motive for the massacre is a mystery.

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