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Jul 29, 2019

Libertad Villager Dies during Coast Guard Recruitment Screening Process

Brigaile Teck

A father of two from Libertad Village in Corozal died during a recruitment screening at the Belize Coast Guard Headquarters over the weekend.  According to the Vice-Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, they were conducting their annual recruit drive on Saturday.  They had received around eight hundred applicants, but only three hundred and sixty of them were invited to the preliminary screening.  That screening process includes a written test and a swimming exercise.  It was just after Teck completed the swimming test that he collapsed and died. Reporter Andrea Polanco has more in the following story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Thirty-one-year-old Brigaile Teck collapsed and died after he completed a swimming exercise at the Belize Coast Guard headquarters on Saturday around eleven in the morning. Teck did the swimming test as a part of the recruitment process to qualify to enlist with the Belize Coast Guard. Teck reportedly told one of the safety supervisors that he had experienced some cramps, shortly after which he fainted. Captain Elton Bennett says that medical help was offered immediately on the scene.


Elton Bennett

Captain Elton Bennett, Vice Commandant, Belize Coast Guard

“The first test is a swimming test and that requires the applicants to swim two hundred yards after threading water for two minutes and then you exit the sea by a ladder. At this point, this is when the applicant, Brigaile Teck, became a casualty during the recruiting drive. The safety supervisors noticed that he appeared to be faint whilst exiting the sea. They took him from there and handed him over to a medic and an ambulance – the coast guard medic – that was stationed right there. They immediately made an assessment on him and realized that he had no pulse.”


Brigaile Teck was immediately rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Captain Elton Bennett says that all the applicants are advised of risks at the start of the exercises and in this case Brigaile Teck never complained or showed signs of any complications before or during the assessment.


Captain Elton Bennett

“On day one, yes when you enter, the first thing the syndicate leader would ask if there are any non-swimmers or weak swimmers and we have the necessary safety systems in place to ensure that there is no casualty. So, we do ask the applicants right then and there before they go into each activity, if they are comfortable doing the run and if they are comfortable doing the swim. Then we do medical assessments on that same day as well followed by interviews and academic exams. So, at this stage he did not reach the medical assessment as yet so that was a part of the day’s activity but he didn’t make it to the medical stand. You have to appreciate that the first thing that we do is a swimming test to ensure that the candidates who progress from here are all swimmers.”


At this time Teck’s cause of death is not known. A post-mortem has been scheduled to determine that. So, the family in Libertad doesn’t want to speculate. But what they were able to say is that he was in good physical health. Shenique Neal says that her uncle wasn’t suffering from any pre-existing medical condition at the time of his death.


Shenique Neal

Shenique Neal, Niece of the Deceased

“He was always outgoing. He was energetic. He played football all his years. He was supposed to play football that night for a team he is in. He always plays sports and that was it. He has never been admitted for any heart problem or anything. We don’t even know. We are still waiting for the autopsy, so until that is done then we will know.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, he has never complained to you guys that he didn’t feel well?”


Shenique Neal

“No, ma’am. No. He has always been on the go.”


If Teck was ailing and the family didn’t know – it is also likely that the Coast Guard wouldn’t have known. Because way the recruitment process is set up, a medical history is not required during this screening process but at the end an evaluation is done.


Captain Elton Bennett

“Not at this stage. This is the first layer of application and the first thing that you do is a swimming test. So, we accept those applications and we screen those applications. So, during the screening process we call individuals to sit the exam. We received eight hundred applications over a three week period and out of that we invited three hundred to come and sit that exam and then out of that three hundred we see who enters the coast guard.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Given this incident, do you believe that the protocols need to be changed or any sort of thing like that?”


Captain Elton Bennett

“Not at this stage. We have been doing this for ten years and we have never had a casualty. So, what we have seen so far is not a systematic failure. The post mortem will reveal later on what exactly the cause of death was. But so far we have not been able to say that this was the wrong procedure that we did on that day.”


Neal says that it has always been her uncle’s dream to join the coast guard. The family reports that he had applied before but was not recruited. They say he wanted to make a better life for his wife and two children.


Shenique Neal

“He has always said it. He had his job but he didn’t tell much people he was going. The first time he went but I think he got weak or something – we didn’t get that information. Then he went again and that was this Saturday.  He is always the silent one in the family. He has never disrespected anybody. He has always encouraged us to be someone in life, to finish our education and to do better. He has always been an encouraging person.”


The police are carrying out an investigation into Teck’s death. Coast Guard’s Captain Bennett says that they are also doing an internal assessment to determine that all safety rules were adhered to during the recruitment test.  Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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