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Nov 30, 1998

Road accident claims two B.D.F. soldiers

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There is controversy surrounding the death of two B.D.F. soldiers allegedly killed when a car plowed into them over the weekend. According to the Belize Defence Force, the car, driven by Alexander Tillett, a mechanic of Camalote ran off the road, near the Warriehead Bridge hitting four of their soldiers, Corporal Valerio Shal, Private Bernard Tzul, Sergeant David Diego and Warrant Officer Class 2, Clifford Cadle. Shal and Tzul died on their way to the Belmopan Hospital while Diego and Cadle are recovering from their injuries. But was it a simple case of a driver losing control of his car, or was the B.D.F. truck where it shouldn’t have been? There are also allegations that the injured B.D.F. soldiers assaulted the driver and passengers of the other car. News Five spoke with witnesses today.

The strap from a dead soldier’s backpack remains on the trunk of the vehicle that ran them over just shortly after midnight on Sunday, November twenty-ninth. But while the army is grieving the loss of two of their men, they are also being blamed for the accident. A driver we spoke to who did not wish to appear on camera, said prior to the accident he saw the B.D.F. truck parked on the highway, and he says its location could have caused him to crash.

Witness

“What I observe was a truck on the highway.”

Q: “So it wasn’t park off the highway?”

Witness

“No, the truck was parked on the highway. So what happen is when I approached that point of the highway, I had to stop because an approaching vehicle was coming in the opposite direction. I had to stop to let the other vehicle pass, cause he was in my lane. So I had to stop and then wait until the approaching vehicle pass and then I proceeded.”

Kenrick Banner and Rupert Castillo, who were travelling along with Tillett, said when they took the curve, the only thing they could have done to avoid hitting the truck, was to drive off the road and into the bushes. Presently Tillett and Banner are in the Belmopan Hospital recovering from injuries they received.

Jacqueline Woods

“According to Tillett, Banner and Castillo, the injuries they receive were not as a result of the traffic accident, but they were first pulled out of their vehicle and then beaten by the B.D.F. soldiers.”

The three men who all sustained identical injuries say if the police hadn’t arrived on the scene, they believe they would have been beaten to death.

Kenrick Banner

“When we come out, those guys just dash we, throw we down on the ground and took the gun and start to pound we all over right. Some of them took the gun and point it to our heads, you know, click. You hear click and I say well, I out.

I had to close my eyes and really pretend like I blackout, so those guys could ease off. Then they still come back afterwards and say, oh you are playing trick, alright hold here and same treatment again.”

Castillo, who was sitting in the back of the car, said he was not only beaten, but claims the soldiers took his jewelry.

Rupert Castillo

“Well anytime the car stop, I never want to come out and the soldiers they just drag me out and stone me on the ground. And then they start to beat me up and they sit down on me and say I am the biggest one and I can take the lick. And they push my head on the ground and they pop my two chain like that.

All they say, I no want to hear no crying, no groaning or else there will be more, more beating for we. We just had to stay still and just take everything.”

When News Five contacted the B.D.F. about the allegations, we were told that they are not aware of any beating, but have the matter under investigation. Meanwhile the army maintains that their truck was parked off the side of the highway and that the three young men in the car were so drunk, they could not render any kind of assistance.

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