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Aug 26, 2013

Coast Guard continues to search for the body of a young girl

Chelsie Smith

Here in the Belize District, the Belize National Coast Guard is conducting an intensive search of the Old Belize River near the village of Isabella Bank in the Belize River Valley. They are looking for the body of seven year old Chelsie Smith, a student from Sandhill. She and her family were spending Sunday on the banks of the river when at around eleven am Chelsie went under the rising waters and didn’t come back up. Mike Rudon travelled to Isabella Bank this morning and found family and friends of Chelsie standing vigil on the banks while the Coast Guard scoured the flooded waters of the Old Belize River. Here’s that story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On Sunday, Pamela Olivaria and her five children left their home in Sandhill early and headed to the village of Isabella Bank in the Belize River Valley. They had been invited to spend the day celebrating the birthday of a friend on the banks of the Belize Old River. Olivaria could not have known that instead of a celebration, the day would end in tragedy and her daughter, seven year old Chelsie Smith, would never be coming home. On Sunday the waters weren’t as high as they are today, and Olivaria was fishing by this tree while her five children swam and played around her. And that’s when what seemed like a perfect day turned into a nightmare.

 

Percival Flowers, Assisting in Search

“The little girl was trying to get to where her mother was, right, cause her mother was out by the bribri tree fishing. So I don’t know if the little girl got excited by the fish that her mother caught, because her mother did catch a fish. So I think that when she was going by her mother she slipped off the bank side and went into the deep…”

 

Reporter

“And then you said her mother tried to help her?”

 

Percival Flowers

Percival Flowers

“Yeah, that’s what I heard…that the mother tried to hold on to a limb to help her daughter but she was already gone.”

 

Chelsie’s mother could not swim, and so was forced to watch helplessly, clinging to a limb while her daughter went under. Percival Flowers was at the same party on the banks of the river, and says that people immediately tried to find the small child, but it was hopeless.

 

Percival Flowers

“And then you have the river boys them that live here, Mr. Hendy’s family, they went to try diving, but they said the current is too hard, because the guys they don’t have masks, they don’t have fins so they were only trying. The Coast Guard…if they had gotten here a little earlier they could have done a better job, because the river hadn’t risen yet like now. That’s the problem…the river got too high.”

 

Chelsie went under the water at around eleven am, and Flowers says the Coast Guard came after four. Today they were still searching this small area of the river, hoping that maybe the body is hooked on something and has not been swept away downriver by the strong currents.

 

Percival Flowers

“I think the child went down with the stream, because the water is too high, so you have a rapid current so she is gone, she wouldn’t hang up here. I’m an experienced diver. I dive all around. And I am a sixty year old man, so to my knowledge the body is gone, it won’t hang up here…because of the current and the water is rising. All the bodies…I have dived about four bodies in this river already. All of them you don’t find in the same spot. If it gets hooked up you’ll find it in the same spot. But if it catches the stream, it will do until it hooks up somewhere. Even if it floats, it will only stop if something hooks it.”

 

The Coast Guard is being assisted by volunteer divers from the area who are familiar with the waters and its currents.  Mike Rudon for News Five.

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