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May 23, 2017

Naturalized Belizean Drowns in Belize River; Second Drowning Reported in Cayo

Denia Zelaya

Two persons drowned over the weekend in separate incidents in the Belize and Cayo Districts. In Bermudian Landing, in the Belize River Valley area, twenty-three-year-old Denia Zelaya was with her common-law husband and two other friends swimming in the Belize River, just behind the Howler Evolution Tour establishment on the main road. The outing ended tragically for Zelaya, who was swept away by the current and despite efforts to rescue her, she submerged into the deep river water and did not resurface. Residents on the banks of the river were soon joined by the police and then the coast guard who searched for her over the past two days.  Today, just before midday, her body was discovered by coastguard divers. News Five’s Duane Moody was out in Bermudian Landing today and files this report.  


Duane Moody, Reporting

A weekend trip to the Belize River in Bermudian Landing turned tragic on Sunday afternoon, just before two o’clock. GSU officer Dion Bellini and his common-law wife Denia Zelaya went swimming along with two other friends just behind Howler Evolution Tour, but while in the water, Zelaya was drifted away by the current. Many attempts were made to rescue the twenty-three-year-old, but to no avail. She then disappeared under water and did not resurface.


Tyrone Edwards

Petty Officer Tyrone Edwards, Dive Team, Belize National Coast Guard

“We’ll be here for the day until like four in the evening. However, one dive we can do like forty-five minutes, take a break and then continue on do a next dive. So we’ll probably do like two dives and then we’ll have the surface swimmers doing free dives in the area as well.”



“At what point do you stop searching?”


Petty Officer Tyrone Edwards

“Well this is a recovery; this is not a search and rescue, this is a recovery. So at this point in time what our mission is to try and recovery a body. It is different when you are going to save lives and someone that has already passed. So it is just recovery.”


Since Monday, the police, coastguard and residents in the area have been combing the river in search of the body.  According to Petty Officer Class One Tyrone Edwards, who is part of the dive team with the coastguard, says that the operations will likely lead them some distance away from where Zelaya went under.


Petty Officer Tyrone Edwards

“We had personnel here on the ground and today again myself and other divers along with the SEAL team, they will conduct the surface swimming and the two of us will do diving. However, as you can see the current is strong and we will do a recky first in the little boat and then we will decide from where we will start diving. It all depends on the current and the visibility under the water. It’s more than likely after two to three days; it all depends if the body is stuck under some trees of limbs that are broken under the water. So we will have to search. As well we have to look out for our safety as well while doing the dive because the current is strong and we don’t want to get trapped as well in all the broken trees and whatever under the water.”


Duane Moody

“Is there the possibility that the body may have been pushed a distance away given the current?”


Petty Officer Tyrone Edwards

“Yes there is a high possibility that the body drifted down or if not, it is hooked up under some branch or broken trees or limbs under the water, but more than likely with the current.”


…and just before midday today, approximately three miles from the Bermudian Landing Bridge in the Belize River Valley, the decomposing body of Zelaya was discovered by the coastguard team. An onsite post mortem exam was carried out hours later.


Juanito Cocom

ASP Juanito Cocom, O.C., Ladyville Police

“Since yesterday the coastguard and some villagers, some divers, are on the river trying to locate the body which was found about an hour and a half ago. The body was found about three miles away from the Bermudian Landing Bridge.”


Duane Moody

“Now sir, there is no reason to suspect any foul play?”


ASP Juanito Cocom

“I cannot venture into that at this moment. The postmortem has to be done for that to be determined.”


Duane Moody for News Five.


As the search began on Sunday for Zelaya, in the Colorado Lagoon near the Santander Sugar Factory in Valley of Peace, police retrieved the decomposing body of Jose Alberto Gutierrez, a twenty-six-year-old Salvadoran farmer from the village. Investigations have revealed that Gutierrez was intoxicated when he left home to go swimming on Saturday in the lagoon. When he did not return home, efforts were made to locate. His body was later discovered floating in the river. No signs of violence were observed and no foul play is suspected. A post mortem conducted onsite has determined that Gutierrez died from asphyxia due to drowning.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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