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May 6, 2019

Explosion Claims Lives of 2 Girls, Injures 14 Persons

There was a deadly explosion at the Ocean Ferry Water Taxi terminal on Sunday afternoon in Belize City. The vessel was loaded with thirty-four passengers about to take-off to Caye Caulker. Two young siblings sitting close to the engine perished in the blast.  The girls’ mother was injured and released and their stepfather remains hospitalized. The devastating news was delivered to the girls’ biological father soon after; he was still in shock when we spoke to him today.  A total of fourteen persons were injured and rushed to the hospitals. In the following story, News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports on the tragic occurrence.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

An explosion stunning the country on Sunday afternoon left at least fourteen persons injured and two girls dead. It occurred at about three o’clock, at the Ocean Ferry water taxi terminal at the foot of the Swing Bridge in Belize City, sending shockwaves throughout the country.  Cell phone videos captured the state of panic inside the terminal minutes after the blast. Fire-fighters along with medical personnel and police responded. The blast site was cordoned off and the bridge was closed to traffic. Attempts to resuscitate the two girls were unsuccessful.

Eight-year-old Kimberly Melisa Guy and ten-year-old Jamiri Yasmin Guy died as a result of the blast. Both girls were at the back of the Water Jet boat with their mother, twenty-seven-year-old Rosalie Catch and her boyfriend, thirty-two-year-old Jaime “Jimmy” Interiano, preparing to leave the city en route to Caye Caulker where Interiano works as a baker. Originally from Xaibe Village, the girls and their mother had recently moved to Caye Caulker where the girls began attending school.  According to reports, the explosion happened after the boat captain was reportedly cranking up the engine.

 

Alejandro Cowo

ASP Alejandro Cowo, O.C., C.I.B., Belize City

“What police gathered is that the water taxi was about the depart from Belize City en route to Caye Caulker and San Pedro when one of the engines was being started when the captain heard a loud explosion resulting with some of the passengers that were seated right underneath where the explosion occurred for them to be flown away from their location and due to the extent of the blast, other persons receive injuries to their bodies. Police called the B.D.F. expert, Coast Guard personnel, Port Authority- they worked throughout last night to determine the cause of the explosion. Up to this moment, an exact cause of the explosion has not been ascertained yet as the boat was towed this morning from the Ocean Ferry to Old Belize where a proper examination is being conducted by Port Authority and the Belize Defence Force along with the Police Department.”

 

Thirty-four persons were on board at the time of the explosion. Catch was treated for severe burns to her right leg and left arm before she was released today. Interiano suffered burns to his right foot and arm. He is expected to be discharged from the K.H.M.H. on Tuesday. The girl’s father, Efrain Guy says he received the terrible news moments after the incident occurred.

 

Efrain Guy

Efrain Guy, Father of Deceased

“She called me and told me where am I. I told her I am in Corozal, that if I can reach to her house immediately. I catch a taxi and I went to her home when she showed me a picture of my kids and my ex-common-law, and her common-law husband, and she told me if that are my kids. I told her yes, what happened to them? She explained to me that they passed away in a terminal at Ocean Ferry. I told her I cannot believe when she showed me the picture then I realized that yes, it is not a lie what they told me. I just started to cry because I said that those are my kids. And I started to worry, happened to the little small one. Why is the little small one not in the picture. Why they covered her face? What happened to her? Who has her?”

 

Guy’s youngest child, a five-year-old girl was with her grandmother and was not part of the trip. Several other persons were injured including a Canadian tourist, Lauria Gatte, who received injuries to her feet, thirty-year-old Santiago Guzman who sustained cut wounds to his left foot and Trudy Rulef who had to undergo surgery for two fractured legs. Four American tourists, namely, forty-nine-year-old Christina Lowry, fifty-six-year-old Joseph Lee, forty-three-year-old Paul Jensen, and sixteen-year-old Brie Jensen, all received varying degrees of injuries such as burns and cuts. They were taken to the Belize Medical Associates for treatment.

 

ASP Alejandro Cowo

“Upon police arrival at the location, they observed a forty-five foot skiff with the name San Pedro Water Jet Express and also there was a confusion and commotion among people being gathered at that location. Police observed several persons suffering from varying degrees of injuries, being burn injuries and other fracture injuries to their bodies. As a result police visited the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and Medical Associates where upon conclusion of checking both hospitals it was learned that a total of fourteen persons were admitted in both institutions, suffering from varying degrees of burns and fractures to their body.”

 

According to one of the directors at Ocean Ferry Belize, Charles Young, the captain would regularly start the engine with passengers on board.

 

Charles Young

Charles Young, Director, Ocean Ferry Belize

“As the caption started the fourth engine, the boat exploded.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Do you know whether or not it is a regular practice for the boat caption to crank up the engine while passengers are in the boat?”

 

Charles Young

“Normally what we do, we start the engines here at Ocean Ferry before the boats get off, you know just to see that we have any other issues or things like that. It’s normal for him to just start when the boat is loading.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Do you know whether or not this particular boat had any mechanical issues prior to this…?”

 

Charles Young

“That’s the thing that surprised me because it is an internationally run boat. It’s being checked every other day that it goes to Mexico. It has to be inspected by the Port Authority before it leaves San Pedro and the immigration and customs department. I figured that it is a really nice boat and it is something that is heavily inspected so I figured it is okay.”

 

According to Young, the Water Jet boat was chartered to do the three o’clock run after the boat the company usually charters was not available.

 

Charles Young

“It is a boat that we hire to do a run for us like the three o’clock run. We charter that for the day because the company right now does not have any boats so we just charter that boat yesterday. This boat goes from Caye Caulker to Chetumal and it goes every other day. It goes one in, one out with the other company, the Belize Express Company. This is only the second time that we have been using this boat. I use another boat from Caye Caulker that we normally charter and I could get that boat yesterday because the guy was working on it so I chartered this boat. It’s hard you know. We feel really, really sorry for the families. We are working hand in hand with the authorities to see how we can help. We assist everyone as best as we could. We flew back people to the states. We paid for all their medical expenses. We are currently getting in contact with the family who lost their children and still injured. We are trying our best to work with them and see how we can assist them.”

 

Hipolito Novelo, News Five.


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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