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Aug 15, 2023

Justin Daniels Survives to Tell Tale of Disappearance at Sea

Last night, we told you about a daring rescue at sea after tour guide Justin Daniels disappeared when he jumped out of his boat to address a mechanical issue. This happened in the dead of night and Daniels drifted for more than five hours before he was found and rescued. Tonight, Daniels recounts the horrific experience. He tells us what happened when he got into the water and how he found the strength to survive strong currents and crashing waves for close to six hours. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

On Sunday night, Justin Daniels was on his way from Caye Caulker to San Pedro in a boat when a rope got caught in the engine’s propeller. The tour guide went overboard to remove the rope from the propeller. His boat, carrying several other passengers, drifted away from him much faster than he was able to swim to it, due to the sheer strength of the winds and currents in the northern channel. He became stranded at sea.


Justin Daniels

Justin Daniels, Tour Guide

“The boat engine and the rope get tight, so I couldn’t tilt up the engine to remove the rope. So, I had to get in the water and manage to pull of the rope off the prop. While doing that with the current, the current mih really strong that night, I managed to pull off piece of the rope. With the wind blowing it picked up in my canopy and start push the boat away from me. I couldn’t keep up to swim as fast as the boat mih the go with the wind.”


At that moment Daniels knew that he had to think and quickly, making a survival decision.


Justin Daniels

“I stopped, looked around see where my location is. I knew the area pretty well, because I travel it almost every day. I know a friend of mine, his dad own an island called Pops Caye behind Caye Caulker a couple miles away. I said if I go with the current I would manage to reach there. Mein the wave mih the cover me, fatigue, I swallow couple mouthful of water. Ih mih scary. I nuh wish nobody fih ever in that situation I was in. All I could have dah faith and be strong minded. My son, he mih deh pan mih mind twenty-four seven, and he dah the one I said the man need me, I can’t give up, I start pray, pray to God.”


Shortly after news got out of Daniel’s disappearance at sea, residents from both San Pedro and Caye Caulker organized a massive search party. The night was dark and Daniels was filled with terror. He recalls seeing spotlights at a distance from numerous boats in the search party, but due to the direction the wind was blowing, no one heard him shouting for help. His friend, Jaime Guerrero was a part of the search party.


Jaime Guerrero

Jaime Guerrero, Tour Guide

“His mentality kept him up and since he is a tour guide as well, you do your tour guide training and survival skills that helped him out. The factors were against him, it was windy, the waves. It was pitch black, you couldn’t see. Also I think since our boat was one of the bigger boats and had a lot of spotlights that helped us out, but we didn’t see him we heard him first then we sped up and spotted him eventually.”


After almost six hours adrift, the search party finally found Daniels more than seven miles from the location he disembarked, in deep waters.


Justin Daniels

“I went down a couple times and the first time I went down, I said no this isn’t me. I need to stay up dah top and I can’t give up. Anybody weh know me and met me know I never give up nothing, I always keep on pushing through and that is what keep me motivated. I said my friends and my people deh, they cannot find me dead. When I see the boat and I see dah my friends deh find me, at that point I give up for a minute cause I know deh done sih me, so I said alright dah time to take a rest. A couple of them jump in the water, haul me up. I mih happy, god give me a second chance.”


Daniels says he accepts that he made a mistake when he got into the water, given the marine conditions at the time. It is a lesson that will remain with him for a lifetime. He is on the way to fully recovering from the ordeal physically.


Jaime Guerrero

“At the time we found him he was very weak, but like I said, he is a very strong guy, a warrior, so he fought for his life. It is a very crazy experience but a great ending and he is one of our good friends. I have known him for many years. So I am glad we found him.”


The experience reminded him that his community would go above and beyond in lending a helping hand to someone in need.


Justin Daniels

“I am very surprised how many people came out to support me, people from Caye Caulker all my friends from Caye Caulker was out there searching, people here in San Pedro, thanks very much for everything. A couple of my friends went to open the gas station in Caye Caulker to purchase gas because they run out of gas, came back, they never gave up.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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