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Jun 24, 2020

Church Van is Torched in Gales Point Manatee

At the crack of dawn this morning, fire erupted dangerously close to the house of the resident pastor in the village of Gales Point, Belize District. The pastor and his family were asleep when a van parked in the yard was set on fire. The vehicle contained two tanks of butane gas which exploded inside the van as it was being consumed by the blaze. The family quickly was evacuated from the house averting any tragedy. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Around 4:30 this morning, a fire broke at the residence of Pastor Kenneth Welch of the Galilee Gospel Church in Gales Point Manatee Village, in the Belize District.  Welch, his wife, their two young daughters and ten youths from the village were asleep inside the house when it is believed that at least two persons—also from the village—under the cover of darkness set the church’s van afire. The surveillance footage captures the fire, but not the perpetrators.

 

Kenneth Welch

Kenneth Welch, Senior Pastor, Galilee Gospel Church, Gales Point Manatee

“I smell like rubber was burning, but I figured we didn’t light any mosquito coil so something is wrong. I got up to check to see if the girls who are hanging out in the house lit anything and as soon as I got up, I saw a glare through the window, I opened the window and I noticed the van was in flames.”

 

Inside the van at the time were two small tanks filled with butane; one, which belonged to a neighbour, was stolen because it could not be found in the charred remains. The other exploded inside the van. With that information in mind, Pastor Welch decided to evacuate the occupants from the house through the back. The blaze spread to consume a chair lodged on the wall to the house; luckily the concrete structure withstood the flames.

 

Kenneth Welch

“People could have gotten hurt, but praise the Lord no one got hurt. We were able to get everyone up and out the house in a quick enough time before the house was engulfed in smoke because all the smoke from the fire was going directly into the house.”

 

Denika Bowen was one of seven young women sleeping inside the room closest to the blaze. She recounts the frightening experience, saying that she went to sleep about thirty minutes before the fire started. Bowen says it could have been worst.

 

Denika Bowen

Denika Bowen, Resident

“I jump up and I mi frighten and wake up my next friend that was beside me. We run outside and when I look through the window, I see my cousins outside trying to out it, but the fire di get bigger. And I say noh run out there cause the glass di bruk and he run back inside and the pastor tell we unu go outside cause they remember the [gas] tank deh ina di truck. So we run through the bush dah the house to the back and my mother take the pikney dehn and dah soh we try gone across dah the house to the neighbour.”

 

Village chairman, Jason Altschaft says that the incident is upsetting—not only for him, but the rest of the community—because Pastor Welch and his family, through the church, have been selflessly working on the development of the village for over a decade.

 

Jason Altschaft

Jason Altschaft, Chairman, Gales Point Manatee Village

“It’s just upsetting that people would have the mindset to think about how many people use this van. We don’t have a bus, we don’t have anything. It’s pastor’s van and maybe three or four other people that have vehicles in this village, especially around school—we have no bus in and out. So everybody relies on this; young, old, everybody. We don’t get much help from the government back here. We don’t get much help for anything as far as basics. The church is it. Pastor Kenny has tirelessly stood in front for the nearly ten years that I have been here and he must have alligator skin cause he is tough and he keeps going.”

 

Kenneth Welch

“We do as much as we possibly can with what we can; humanitarian aid. We attend to people’s spiritual need; their basic needs. We bring help from outside sometimes medical needs, dental needs. We do all of that just as a way of reaching people and caring for the whole person.”

 

Now it is not the first time that a crime has been committed at the residence; in April 2019, burglars stole laptops used by students from the community and a number of power tools used in the community.

 

Kenneth Welch

“We had a break-in. most of what was taken from the house were stuff that were for community-based use. So it was a huge setback especially in the area of construction because most of our construction tools were taken and probably sold for cheap. Besides my personal property, even the church has been broken into time and time again. Sometime they break in just to steal the fans off the wall and stuff like that.”

 

So who could have done this and why? While there is speculation as to who the culprits are, Pastor Welch says that his work in the village will continue.

 

Kenneth Welch

“I have absolutely no idea. I can’t think of one thing right now that would say I can point a finger and say maybe that’s why this happened. But we know that this was no accident. The fact that the door was opened tells us that someone went inside and lit the van on fire. But I can’t pinpoint any reason why someone would do something like this. Maybe their angry at me or other folks around me.”

 

Jason Altschaft

“The village has got a reputation which isn’t really what goes on here. This village is actually very unified, lotta love. So when you have one little thing that comes up like this that’s potentially one family upset or two families, who knows what—it is usually pretty minimal—ninety percent of the people here are full of love and would give you down to their last.”

 

Denika Bowen

“Something coulda mi happen to one ah we. One ah we coulda mi dead ina this house. I noh know why dehn do this. And the person weh do this, know how the camera dehn set up and know this yard and this house because they know exactly how fi mi burn it.”

 

Duane Moody

“Are you worried because it has to be somebody from the village?”

 

Denika Bowen

“Yes I worried because I say if dehn coulda do this, dehn coulda do something to anyone ah we in the village. People always think bad about Gales Point and this di set a bad example.”

 

The Welch family today packed up their belongings and left the village for Belize City, where Pastor Kenneth also administers the word at the Port Loyola Calvary Chapel. Duane Moody for 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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