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Sep 24, 2019

Independence Day Fire Leaves One Dead, Several Homeless

At Caye Caulker today, the community is picking up the pieces following a deadly fire. Early on Saturday morning, the quiet in the village was interrupted when a two-storey commercial building, which housed Nando’s Golf Cart Rentals and Apartments, erupted in fire.  Inside one of the apartments was Elmer Chub, a mechanic from San José who had relocated to work on the island and died in fire. Fourteen persons were displaced. The community sprung into action to bring the fire under control. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Panic and disbelief – this was the scene on Avenida Langosta in the wee hours of Saturday morning and this was the blaze that left Caye Caulker village residents terrified.  The crackling sounds of electrical wires, fire-fighters desperately trying to control the towering inferno and a crowd watching in shock and frustration.


Seleny Villanueva Pott

Seleny Villanueva Pott, Chairlady of Caye Caulker

“One thing I will say is that Caye Caulker is a very united island when it comes to natural disasters and disasters. The island is ready to activate and to help.”


Today, the rubble has been cleared by a united community who was forced to come to terms to the devastating fire that claimed the life of Elmer Chub, a mechanic of San Jose Village who was staying at one of the ten apartments.


Seleny Villanueva Pott

“He use to work at Nando’s Garage. He was a mechanic, that is what he came here to do. A lot of people speak very highly of him. He was a very helpful young man and willing to do anything. He was a very nice person.”


Hilberto Romero

Sr. Supt. Hilberto Romero, Deputy Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch

“Later on that day, police and scenes of crime went through the area where the fire occurred and a as result they found charred human remains. These remains were retrieved and taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where presently a post mortem will be schedule on these remains.”


Duane Moody

“The identity?”


Elmer Chub

Sr. Supt. Hilberto Romero

“Well we do not have an identity at this time. We know that one male persons Elmer Chub is unaccounted for. The post mortem examination will be conducted and thereafter it will be determined whose remains they are.” 


Chub was reportedly socializing with some friends and decided to retire for the night minutes before the fire broke out. At least fourteen persons, including children, are displaced. Twenty- eight year old Amini Coc and her six months old baby girl, on the request of her husband, decided to leave their apartment minutes before the fire started.


Amini Coc

Amini Coc, Fire Victim

“My husband told me that he is going to take us to the fireworks at night. I didn’t want to leave the house. I told him that we were going to sleep in the house with my baby because my baby cries when she wants to sleep. So I told my husband that he can go but I will stay in the house. I didn’t want to go the fireworks. He said that he already rent a golf cart. That is why I went with him, if not I don’t know what would have happened to me.”


Coc and her family lost everything, including important documents. The fire victims are being assisted by the Ministry of Human Development. The fire destroyed a wooden two-storey commercial building which housed Nando’s Golf Cart Rentals, and apartments.


Colin Gillett

Colin Gillett, Fire Chief, National Fire Service

“Immediately both fire trucks responded to the location along with fire personnel. Upon arriving at the scene it was observed that Nando’s Golf Cart Rentals and apartments was engulfed in flames. Fire personnel got into operations by deploying the portable pump to the rear of the island which is approximately two blocks from the scene. The second fire truck was staged at the north of the crossroad section which is approximately a hundred feet from the scene.”


The blaze began attracting civilians who in an effort to intervene and assist, rendered one of the fire trucks was rendered completely useless after it was damaged during the chaos.


Colin Gillett

“The fire truck that was staged at the north cross road section experienced mechanical failures after civilians intervened attempting to render assistance.  When the fire truck pulled up to the scene the civilians were already out there and they I am guessing in their enthusiasm they started to pull the hose, the levers. The lever that they pulled to engage the pump to make it work they broke it. Thinking that it was engaged, they started to stomp on it with their feet the other one and after that they came with a hammer and they actually broke off maybe two other levers.”


Seleny Villanueva Pott

“So that fire truck was not able to serve us of any use that night. So that was a total loss for us since that fire truck wasn’t, you know able to be of use to us. So what we did then did was to go to our bucket brigade.”


Residents then lined up and the bucket brigade was in full swing, but even so the blaze was out of control.


Seleny Villanueva Pott

“We started to find wells in the area. Meanwhile the second fire truck was being stationed at the back dock where they hoses were being run to the back area of the building to defuse the fire.  I would say at least fifty to seventy five people were out there. We had a water pump going as well, feeding water from one of the wells so. That in itself helped to diffuse the fire.”


It is believed that the fire began at the northwest corner of the apartment. Fire investigation has yet to determine the cause.


Colin Gillett

“We have located where the fire started, which part of the apartment it started but we are still determining what caused it.”


The building and its contents were insured. Hipolito Novelo, Reporting 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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