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Dec 30, 2002

2 men and boy missing at sea since Friday

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As darkness descended, an intensive air and sea search underway for three people missing at sea since Friday night were forced to return to Belize City empty handed. News 5 understands that Johnston International employees: project manager Ian Jackson and mechanic Charles Moody, accompanied by Moody’s seven year old son, left Belize City around five p.m. bound for Turneffe Island Lodge on the southern tip of the Turneffe atoll. The men were travelling in a fifty-foot aluminium vessel, The Demonstrator, carrying a thousand gallons of diesel, steel pipes and several other pieces of equipment. They made radio contact with work colleagues just after nine that night and indicated that they were approximately two miles outside the reef. But besides the worsening weather and the high seas of the blue, the men had other things to worry about. News 5 understands that the thousand gallon diesel drum onboard had shifted and was causing the boat to lean to one side. Upon learning this, the Belize City crew immediately asked the men to turn around, but radio contact had been lost. Before dawn on Saturday, Johnston employees headed out to sea to search the English Channel starting between Goff’s Caye and English Caye where it is believed the vessel crossed the reef. They covered the route the men would have taken to Turneffe and the Bluefield Range. On Middle Long Cay, a fisherman handed over a drum and a portal window to the search party that he had found washed up on shore. Both items were identified as part of The Demonstrator. On Sunday, more debris was found. Late this afternoon we were informed that a Tropic flight spotted the thousand gallon drum floating in the sea near Colson’s Point off the Placencia peninsula. Those discoveries have led authorities to suspect that The Demonstrator encountered serious difficulties and may have capsized or sunk. As to the fate of the missing men, we are informed that there were bright red life jackets on board, and with the numerous mangrove cayes in the area, it is hoped that the men and boy might be seeking shelter on one of them. The rescue effort to locate the trio is being coordinated by Johnston International in coordination with the British Army and the Belize Defence Force. According to the B.D.F.’s Major Ganney Dortch of the aerial search party, they are still treating the case as a search and rescue mission.

Major Ganney Dortch, Head, Search and Rescue Team

“In the first day we did what I mentioned before, any vessel that report or says that they are in distress, within six hours we do what is referred to a six mile radius search. After a day, or after six hours, we then study the wind or the current and that would give an idea of the areas that need to be search. For example this morning, we did an hour and twenty-five minute search, which took us roughly from the Northern Lagoon area, out to English Caye and down to Columbus Caye, just to the east of Dangriga. So basically this was our search box for this morning, based on the weather information from the meteorological centre. That give us an idea that the boat possibly could have been drifting in this area.”

“We found some debris that was possibly from that vessel, and also in the vicinity of English Caye, which was approximately one and a half mile to the southwest of English Caye, a bit of oil spill was observed from the air, which later on was confirmed as oil.”

“I would want to suggest that it was perhaps the weather and the height of the waves that would have caused that vessel to sink or capsize.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Now whatever happened to The Demonstrator supposedly took place sometime Friday night. At this point, is the exercise still being treated as a search and rescue? How are you all dealing with it?”

Major Ganney Dortch

“Yes, we are still treating it as a search and rescue with a view of trying to the best of our ability to find the persons onboard that vessel alive. And also, at this stage we are trying to locate possibly where the debris are actually drifting, so that could give us a more pinpoint area, which we hopefully–and I’m saying this with my fingers crossed–hopefully we can find the people alive.”

News 5 understands that the Johnston employees were making the seven hour journey to Turneffe to do maintenance on the company’s dredge moored near Turneffe Lodge.

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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