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Feb 3, 2011

Propeller of a catamaran slashes and kills tourist

Diana Mechling and her husband Michael were among thousands of tourists who visited the jewel on Wednesday. The American couple chose to go snorkeling in the pristine waters off Goff’s Caye but that trip ended tragically for the Mechling’s from Ohio.  Diana lost her life when the propeller of a catamaran operated by Cruise Solutions, slashed her several times.  And as Marion Ali reports, authorities are probing whether or not there was any negligence involved.

Marion Ali, Reporting

Goff’s Caye is an attractive tourist spot, excellent for snorkeling and relaxation just forty five minutes away from Belize City by boat.  But one of those tourist expeditions went seriously wrong when one of the visitors was killed, reportedly by the propeller on the same boat on which she had traveled to the location.

Fifty-nine year old Diana Mechling, a tourist who was a passenger on Holland America Line’s Ryndam cruise ship, decided along with her husband, Michael Mechling, to go on a snorkeling tour at Goff’s Caye.  The couple reached the area early in the afternoon onboard a vessel operated by Cruise Solutions.  But the tour never took place because the incident occurred just moments after Diana got into the water.  She somehow went under the vessel, whether it was voluntarily or was swept by the waves.  That was when the engine’s rotating propeller delivered a huge gash to Diana’s right leg and two more to her face.  The trip came to an immediate end when the boat captain, forty-five year old Martin Pariente reeled in everyone from the water and rushed Diana to the Belize Medical Associate’s Hospital for treatment.  She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

News Five visited Goff’s Caye today and spoke with Ranger Alexander Chan, who works for the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority, which manages the caye.  Chan told us that the boat arrived at the caye and quickly proceeded to the snorkeling area several hundred yards away.

Alexander Chan, Park Ranger, Goff’s Caye

“The boat didn’t really stay long at the dock because it just did its briefing and went back to the reef and that’s what we saw.”

Marion Ali

“And it had unloaded some passengers?”

Alexander Chan

Alexander Chan

“Yeah, a couple, like three, four the most.”

Marion Ali

“So the incident happened as they reached there?”

Alexander Chan

“Yeah, well the sea was much rougher than today as you can see.”

Whether snorkeling should have been allowed during the rough sea state is one of several factors currently under investigation. While that is ongoing, the incident has triggered tour guides to exercise extreme caution today.

Alexander Chan

“Everybody did their snorkel on the inside for this day so, everybody is pretty moving in a cautious way.  I’m out here for like the past three years and first time I’ve ever been around an accident like that.”

Marion Ali

Marion Ali

“The unfortunate incident is under investigation by the Belize Port Authority and the Belize Police Department to determine whether negligence was involved.  Marion Ali, News Five, Goff’s Caye.”

The investigation is also looking at whether the vessel’s crew applied proper procedures during the trip.  We tried to reach the Belize Tourism Board and Cruise Solutions for comment, but they didn’t return our calls.

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10 Responses for “Propeller of a catamaran slashes and kills tourist”

  1. Earl Grey says:

    An ACCIDENT IS……….. SOMEONE’S IRRESPONSIBILITY COMING TO BARE…………………………

  2. Robert says:

    I can’t think of any justification for putting people in the water while the propeller is turning. It is very clear to me.

  3. BZNinCALI says:

    Accidents happen but for someone to get cut up by a moving propeller, the operator was careless. He should have been tested immediately after this incident to make sure he was not under the influence. We cannot ask people to trust us if we are not willing to make sure we put our best foot forward & . I do not know this operator & this may be an isolated incident but that does not matter to the family who just lost their loved one & we have to at least attempt to look professional so that this does not leave another stain on our country & I hope he had insurance.

  4. PRINCE MICHAELS says:

    I think there should be a strict protocol that vessel operators are supposed to follow especially when there are swimmers in the water. Whether those swimmers are their customers or just natives swimming in the area surrounding the vessel. They should exercise extreme caution not to injure any humans while navigating in the water. Its just strange that this lady was killed in such a way, it would mean that she either jumped off the vessel while it was in motion or the operater of the vessel failed to notice her when she was placed into the water on her snorkeling expedition. Whatever the case may be, I think a full protocol was still lacking here and no doubt there is signs of negligence in this story.

  5. Oscar965 says:

    At the end of the day…the captain of the boat is responsible, he takes responsibility for everyone on his boat…Cruise Solutions is responsible if they have not set proper protocols to ensure a safe trip…the BTB is responsible for not ensuring that all who are involved in Tourism are not properly trained. The entire multi million dollar tourism industry suffers just because of one single incident. Someone WILL get sued..you can bet on that. We need to take a step back and learn from this incident. On one hand we are trying to look good and professional for the Cruise Tourism Industry to ensure they continue to come..but incidents like this do not help our cause. My condolences to the Melching family.

  6. Dr. John says:

    My condolences to the family, I hope that the investigation is thorough and transparent. I agree that it doesn’t make any sense for the engine to be on while tourists are in the water. There should be designated snorkeling areas away from ALL boat passages and piers and I hope that the tourism board had protocol in place, otherwise they share the blame. What happened after the person was pulled from the water? Did the crew representing BTB on the island or on the catamaran have any BASIC life preservation training. If not then why? We shouldn’t have to wait until accidents happen to make the necessary changes. The SPLIT at Caye Caulker is another accident waiting to happen. All we have to do is visit the other caribbean countries around us, see the protocols in place and COPY and IMPLEMENT them…it’s that simple. We should use the other countries in which Tourism has been the major industry for decades as the blueprint for developing a safe tourism product. Otherwise we can kiss our industry good-bye.

  7. David says:

    This reminds me of the tragic death of that Carnival passenger who went cave tubing a few years ago on a similar cruise line tour. It is another very unfortunate incident but with such large numbers of cruise passengers visiting Belize every week, it was only a matter of time before something like this would happen again. The problem with cruise tourism is that they come in such great numbers, all at once, all kinds of people and the bigger the number, the harder it is for tour guides to control them, especially the ones who look down on Belize as a ‘third-world island” – so many of them do (just read some of their reviews on the various cruise forums). With so many guests to account for, it is easy to have a situation develop where passengers ignore clear warnings and instructions. I am not suggesting that this is what happened but while the complete story has not been revealed it leads me to speculate that such might have been the case.

    Obviously the boat engine had not shut down before the 3 snorkelers entered the water (with or without a guide?). Whether they were unloaded or instructed to enter the water on their own is a crucial part of this story that has not yet been revealed. And has anyone interviewed the other 2 people that were in the water? the husband? It’s curious that the media has not been able to get a word from the husband or did they?

  8. Earl Grey says:

    accidents don’t ……JUST HAPPEN.

    ACCIDENTS HAPPEN WHEN SOMEONE IS …………IRRESPONSIBLE.

  9. LARGE AND SEXY says:

    I am wondering if she couldn’t see the propeller moving? or some sign that it was on. Tourist have to be careful too, how come she was swimming so close to the boat??

    Yes of course it’s sad, and I agree that the operator was careless.

  10. kikaC says:

    well this was on my views, the person incharge of taking these tourist for snorkeling tours is careless. sometimes they don’t think want could happen why don’t he get the lady in the boat before turning the engine.

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