Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Crime, Featured » B.D.F. Helicopter Crashes into Lagoon; Four Soldiers are Killed!
Feb 28, 2020

B.D.F. Helicopter Crashes into Lagoon; Four Soldiers are Killed!

The entire nation mourns tonight the worst air disaster in which two pilots and two crews of the Belize Defense Force perished.  The four died in a helicopter crash sometime between Thursday and Friday near the Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary while conducting air surveillance near the site of the drug plane off the Coastal Road. The biggest drug bust ended in the worst air disaster. But tonight, there are more questions than answers because it was not until this morning that word began to filter that the men were missing since no information had been offered when the details of the major drug bust were disclosed.  We begin our extensive coverage of this tragedy with News Five’s Andrea Polanco.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Four Belize Defence Force soldiers are dead. Two pilots, Major Adran Ramirez and Major Radford Baizar, along with their two crew members Corporal Yassir Mendez and Corporal Reinaldo Choco all died when their helicopter crashed into the Western Lagoon that falls within the Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary, off the Coastal Highway. Sometime after two this afternoon all four bodies were retrieved from the crash site. It’s recorded as the worst crash in the history of the B.D.F.  According to the Ministry of National Security, the team was a part of the air surveillance support to law enforcement authorities who seized seventy bales of suspected cocaine on Thursday morning, off the Coastal Road. It wasn’t until this morning the public became aware that the men were missing. But according to the Minister of National Security, the search started on Thursday night, after they became alarmed that the men hadn’t returned from their mission. That search led to the bodies earlier this afternoon.


Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security

“When night set it in, it became of immediate concern to the B.D.F that the helicopter had not returned back to base at Williamson. Immediately, the B.D.F kicked in their standard operating procedure for search and a full fledge search begun last night for the helicopter and the four people on the helicopter, two pilots and two support crew. The search happened and this morning, the helicopter was discovered in the sea just off of Gales Point and subsequently after a search was done and the four members of the crew in the helicopter were discovered and their bodies gave no response and they have been determined to be dead.”


The crash site of the helicopter is some four miles east from where the plane landed. The team of two pilots and two crew members was said to have departed Price Barracks around four that morning and was in the area of the drug plane that day. The last known contact with the helicopter, according to the B.D.F. was over the site during the operation sometime around four-thirty that morning.  While News Five has received multiple reports that the helicopter mission wasn’t sanctioned, so it wasn’t part of the official law enforcement crew, but the Ministry of National Security flatly denies those reports. Minister of National Security explains why the helicopter remained in the area following the seizure of drugs on the airplane that landed near the clandestine air strip.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte

“One of the reasons for that success is because we had outstanding air support and assistance. Normally, when we have the air assistance from the helicopter, it is standard procedure for that helicopter to either stay on the ground with the supporting troops or they would hover in the immediate area to see if they can discover or get any additional clues towards the landing of the plane. They would veer coastally if they can to see if there are any incoming boats or even on land if we can see any vehicles that were escaping from the plane, especially since in this instance we didn’t arrest any persons concerning the plane that landed. It is not unusual for the helicopter to hover in the area or even land on ground on the site. It is equally not unusually for the helicopter to remain for the entire day at the site with the support of the composite team or other supporting members of the Belize Police Department or the B.D.F. The only time they would usually radio in is when there is a situation and so when they didn’t radio in by evening yesterday, there was no reason for alarm.”


So, what caused this aircraft to crash into the lagoon? At this time the Ministry says that they don’t know but that they are not ruling out any possibilities at this time. What we know is that the helicopter is of about one million US dollar in value. It was not, however, equipped with night vision capabilities and onboard were decorated officers of the B.D.F.’s Airwing. There are several theories floating around about what may have brought down the chopper – one of those speculations is that the narco-traffickers may have had a hand in it. It is a very sinister theory and may seem like a stretch but the Ministry reports that there is no evidence of that at this point.


Steven Ortega

Brigadier General Steven Ortega, Commandant, B.D.F.

“The helicopters aren’t equipped with night vision; however, the pilots do conduct night flying, especially along the coast.”



“I know the craft is still in the water but preliminarily is there any indication if the aircraft was fired upon or it just ended up in the lagoon?”


Brigadier General Steven Ortega

“I don’t know. We haven’t seen anything, so we have to await the investigation because it is still partially submerged.”


Michael Peyrefitte

“There is absolutely no evidence at this point to indicate that the aircraft was brought down or shot down or anything to that effect. However, as we said before, there will be a full-fledged investigation that would consider everything; no stone will be left unturned. The Commissioner of Police has offered to provide a team of officers to assist with the investigation to ensure that if there was any kind of foul play then we would investigate that. But to this date, to be honest with you, we cannot give you any categorically acceptable answer to indicate what made the helicopter come down.”


The Ministry says that they are pursuing a full investigation into the accident. They have received word of support from counterparts to assist with the retrieval of the aircraft, which will help to determine what exactly caused the helicopter to crash. The investigation will look at the cause of the accident and will also review adherence of internal protocols to find out if that may have played a factor in the fatal crash.


John Borland

Admiral John Borland, Chief of Defense Staff, Ministry of National Security

“The accident itself but also the internal procedures and protocols to see of those were followed and what was breached; then also the police component along with the forensics to determine if that aircraft was indeed engaged by any sort of ballistics at all, as some people are at this point imagining. So, you are right, the crash site is under security. It has been cordoned and being protected so that it is not tampered with. We are yet to assemble the accident investigation team and the rest of the team comprising of the police and the forensics. We are also have the input of our counterparts, the US Southern Command and our friends from the Mexican military and a key component of this will be the involvement of our own civil aviation department. We intend to give this everything we have and won’t leave any stone unturned. We want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and at the end of the day the chips will fall where they will and the truth shall be told.”


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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed