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Apr 3, 2012

Tourists die during snorkeling trip to Hol Chan

There is tragic news tonight out of the island of Caye Caulker where a snorkeling trip ended terribly for two visitors. A group of seven men and women, vacationing in Belize, set out on an expedition, in a vessel named Cyclone led by Tsunami Tours of Caye Caulker this morning.  As they snorkeled near the channel, the group became separated when strong waves began drifting them farther out to the reef. Five of them were later rescued by coastguard personnel dispatched to the area; however, American national Roger Burgess and Zyihe Florencia believed to be of Italian nationality, were not as fortunate. The bodies of the two tourists were recovered near the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, off the coast of Ambergris Caye shortly after midday today. The survivors arrived before one o’clock at the San Pedro Polyclinic along with a ranger stationed at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  Several hours later, the bodies were taken by a private charter to San Pedro Town where they were pronounced dead on arrival. This afternoon they were transferred by skiff to Belize City by the San Pedro police News Five spoke with Corporal Sharmane Young who is heading the investigation.


Sharmane Young, Corporal, Tourism Police Unit

“About twelve midday I received a call from the Tourism Police officer who was conducting patrol along with the Hol Chan personnel at the Hol Chan [Marine Reserve] where they stated that they had a total of five persons at sea, you know, apparently they were about to drown over at the blue.  As a result of that, the information received was that it was a total of seven persons who went snorkeling with Tsunami’s Tours and of that seven we have five rescued and we have two [who] passed away.”


Isani Cayetano

Sharmane Young

“In terms of the operation that is being conducted who is leading this mission?”


Sharmane Young

“Myself, as the person in charge of the Tourism Police [Unit] for Caye Caulker and San Pedro, and working along with the officer in charge of San Pedro; it’s going to be both of us working along on this investigation.”


Isani Cayetano

“Okay, my understanding is that a coastguard team was also dispatched to the area.”


Sharmane Young

“Yes, that’s true.  We have contacted the officer in charge of the coastguard who has assisted us and both bodies, the first body was recovered at 12:30 and the other one was recovered [sometime later].  The first body that was recovered was a female French national and the other person was an American national by the name of Roger Burgess.”


Isani Cayetano

“What is the preliminary investigation saying at this point?  Was it mechanical failure of some sort, equipment failure?  What were the rescued tourists saying?”


Sharmane Young

“No.  What happened is that these people were already in the water snorkeling at Hol Chan and apparently the current, they were swimming to the blue and the current was too strong and they started drifting away.”


The five surviving visitors have been identified as  American nationals fifty-five year old Rebecca Burger and seventeen year old Zach Burger, Canadian nationals twenty-five old Lawrence Tastet and  twenty- year-old Yanik Doyon and Italian national fifty-nine year old David Florencia. 

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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14 Responses for “Tourists die during snorkeling trip to Hol Chan”

  1. Storm says:

    Tragic. I’ll pray for their souls.

  2. Beth says:

    God bless you, Roger. We love you.

  3. Josephino Estroberto Pesomedio says:

    But the tour guide , every one says the tour guide knows better.

  4. Grant says:

    High tide yesterday: 7:31am. Low tide: 1:30pm.

    Anyone (tour guides) in Hol Chan between those hours should know the current is running out. Also, seas were rough, which mmeans the water coming over the reef has to run out, through the channels. This will incresase the outward flowing water. again, any tour guide that uses Hol Chan should know that.

    Bottom line, the guide messed up by negligence or just sheer disregard of common sense, and killed two people. He is a murderer, and should be charged as such.

    I was a dive instructor here in San Pedro for over 8 years, did nearly 1,000 dives in Hol Chan alone, and almost never hit a strong outgoing current. The very few times I did, I either cancelled or stayed well away from the main part of the channel, which is shaped like a funnel and the current just gets stronger the further out you go. My lack of getting into trouble was not through luck but by planning around the tide tables, a very simple exercise.

  5. Trent says:

    Hello to all,

    I’m a friend and a customer of Rogers. He will be missed greatly. He has taught me many things I never knew before I met him, things that he was able to do that other couldn’t. I’m blessed to have known Roger and worked with him.

    My question to whom ever is this, what kind of safety rules are in place for this type of trip and were the followed? I’ve heard several different versions of what happened from the current being to strong to, the boat hit a big wave going out and people were tossed from the boat.

    This is after the fact and will not change the outcome but may prevent future incidents like this from re-occurring if the rules are followed or enforced. From here in my chair State side it sounds like the boat should have never left the dock or whom ever was in charge should have ended the trip much sooner.

    Please help to prevent future incidents so this is not repeated!

    Our prayers go out to all involved.

    I will miss Roger but I want all to understand that I am blessed to have known and worked with him! He was a great teacher!

  6. Jason S. says:

    Roger Burger was a man who touched many lives in many ways. For me and countless others, he was the coolest camp counselor. For at least 25 years, Roger took a week of his time to spend with teenagers attending Youth Camp at Camp Mack (A Brethren Church camp) in Indiana. The many memories are fond and he will be greatly missed. God rest your soul, Roger, you were one cool dude.

  7. Cody Weaver says:

    It is Roger Burger, I new him personally what a great man, great father and to me a great friend. Prayers go out to his close family and friends. I hope all this will be straighted out by Belieze athorities in due time.

  8. Brother says:

    Roger, my friend and my brother, I LOVE You! I’m crying…. it’s a big loss.

  9. PeterLester says:

    According to amandala belize newspaper, Tsunami Tours of Caye Caulker was the tour operation for this tragedy using the boat named Cyclone. The tour guide for this trip was Marcel Alamilla. If news data to date is accurate a few simple safeguards could have been prevented this tragedy.

  10. BOBBIE says:


  11. T. says:

    My heart aches for the loss of a dear friend and the grief of her family. You’ll be dearly missed: thank you for 20 years of precious friendship.

  12. T. says:

    My heart aches for the loss of a dear friend and the grief of her family. You’ll be dearly missed: thank you for over 20 years of precious friendship.

  13. Lorianna says:

    Peter Lester .. are you certain that Marcel was the tour guide? My dear friend is a tour guide for them and I can find no information on who it was guiding … I can not get through to him by phone either … God bless the deceased. I had a similar experience at the same place and was fortunate to get myself back to the group and was spared my life.

  14. PeterLester says:

    Boat operator’s name was according to published material in the amandala belize newspaper around April 4.

    Safety procedures or the lack thereof are the consequence of an individual’s or culture’s perception of the value of a human life. We are all perceived as VIPs in a 1st world culture.

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