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Jan 31, 2014

Crooked Tree Resident killed and 8 others injured in boating accident on lagoon

Benjamin Gentle Jr.

While the Peck family has reason to celebrate, tragedy struck the Gentle family of Crooked Tree early this morning. Because of flood waters that have not totally receded, the causeway that connects the village to the George Price Highway has been closed. Benjamin Gentle Junior had to catch a shuttle which would have transported him to the highway. He left home at five-thirty this morning, but sometime around six, he was dead in a terrible collision when a Coast Guard boat slammed into the boat he was traveling in. Eight other persons were injured. Duane Moody was in the Crooked Tree and spoke to the grieving Gentle family and others.


Benjamin Gentle Sr., Father of Deceased

“For his life to be cut so short and it’s not his fault, I don’t know what else to say. Somebody has to take the responsibility for what has happened.  I have to congratulate my son because through that whole time while I was rebuilding our house, he assisted us financially every way he can. I’m not saying the other kids didn’t, but my son financially kept us stable until this moment.”


Duane Moody, Reporting

Sometime around six this morning, two boats—the “Mi Sarita” and a Coast Guard vessel collided into each other on the Crooked Tree Lagoon as it shuttled residents out of the village. The causeway has been closed off for months due to flooding. A total of eight persons were seriously injured in the accident and twenty year old Benjamin Gentle Junior was killed. Six persons were rushed to the K.H.M.H. in Belize City, while two others were taken to the Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk.


Commander Elton Bennett, Vice-Commandant, Belize Coast Guard

“The two vessels were out on operation and one vessel approached the other and apparently there was a mechanical malfunction somewhere and instead of going in reverse, trying to slow down the vessel, the vessel’s gears malfunctioned and jumped into the other one—therefore causing the collision. The smaller vessel was where the passengers were and the persons that were injured were onboard the smaller vessel and that’s how the accident happened.”


Elton Bennett


“I certainly don’t want to point fingers, but are you all certain it was mechanical error and not pilot error?”


Commander Elton Bennett

“At this stage, the incident happened a couple hours ago and that’s the initial investigation.”


According to his father, Benjamin Senior, both had just recently gotten jobs and were the breadwinners of the family. Just June of last year, the family was the victim of a fire that gutted their house and now today, tragedy struck once again. Benjamin Junior was fatally injured when the boats collided. The news sent shockwaves to the entire family; his mother, Jessie, was hospitalized thereafter.


Benjamin Gentle Sr.

Benjamin Gentle Sr.

“The last words I said to him; bwai when the phone ring yo supposed to give the phone to yo ma make I talk to she. So I feel kinda guilty that I said a couple hard words to him as my last words.  He caught what we call the five-thirty run to catch a six o’clock bus to reach Belize City on time to his job. Unfortunately we understand this morning that two of the boats collided. I didn’t get the official word if it was head on or what. But from my conclusion from seeing my in the morgue, I wanna say it looks like a head on collision between two coast guard [boats]. They all told me that my son was at the front of the boat. When the actual collision happened, they all saw the boat coming towards them. And now my conclusion to this, I’m not a doctor, but when they turned my son over to the side, I saw multiple cut wounds from his kidney area of his buttocks come up to his shoulders; head injuries only on one side. That would leave me to believe a boat climbed on top of another boat; maybe the propeller, maybe the bottom edges of the boat did all these abrasions to his body and it was like he rolled over multiple bruises all over his body.”


A proper marine casualty investigation, involving the coastguard, the police department and the port authority will look at all angles as to what could have led to the fatal boating accident.


Christopher Noble

ASP Christopher Noble, Rural Executive Officer, Police Department

“It is somewhat of a strange happening. We weren’t anticipating as we don’t any accident and more so anyone in this area. We know that these persons have been living this lifestyle for some months now and they have been doing it to my knowledge to the best of their ability and there was a lot of caution and care.”


Commander Elton Bennett

“I’m sure they were aware of each other. They were approaching each other and apparently there was a transaction that should have occurred between the two vessels and so they were aware of each other’s presence. It was during the approach. So it wasn’t an issue of poor lighting. I am sure that the vessels are equipped with proper spotlight but all of this we will be looking at again during the investigation.”


All persons on board the boats have been left traumatized; most of them being high school students. Nurse Antoinette Tillett attended to several persons before they were taken by ambulance to medical facilities.


Antoinette Tillett

Antoinette Tillett, Nurse, Crooked Tree Village

“I tend to a little boy who had his finger cut and abrasions. There was a little girl who complained that her back was in pain and couldn’t lay down, so she was sitting down. Then another girl with her hand injured. Just before I get out there, they had taken some of them to the junction to take them to Belize City. So I haven’t seen everyone, but I heard that one of them get a long cut on the foot and a boy get a big dig out on the foot because they said when he saw the boat coming to them and the little boy come toward him that died, he ducked and something cut his foot.”


Amongst the eight persons hospitalized was fourteen year old Gabriel Mejia Junior. He received injuries to his leg and went into immediate surgery at the K.H.M.H. His father says that today is his birthday.


Gabriel Mejia Sr.

Gabriel Mejia Sr., Father of Accident Victim

“At this present moment, he is in the theatre, they are operating on him, but he is complaining of bad back pain and also neck and he has a big cut on his leg and his knee is mess up. I gotta go and take care of him.  it is something I know the coastguard are doing a good job, but it is careless for something like this to happen.”


For Benjamin Senior, he wants justice for his son’s untimely death.


Benjamin Gentle Sr.

“I personally will take all legal actions; everything I can do, I will exhaust every breath I have to get to the bottom on this situation and I want as much cooperation. To the coastguard and to the police department at Ladyville, I would like to ask them to please check these gentlemen that are driving these boats to see if anybody was alcohol high content because my son died and unfortunately he was the only man that died. So I wanna know why should these things happen between two professionals.”


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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8 Responses for “Crooked Tree Resident killed and 8 others injured in boating accident on lagoon”

  1. Teddy Steinway says:

    Between dusk and day break you need navigational lights on all watercraft.

  2. David says:

    This accident could have been avoided, if only an ordinary Hurricane Lantern was tied to the bow of the boat. I always taught that the laws of the sea required boats to have light after dark.

  3. Teddy Steinway says:

    Stay on the story. This sounds like negligence not an accident.

  4. sly deceiver says:

    R.I.P Benji u will be missed by all your friends.


    The Coast guard have been very reckless, over the past SERIES OF EVENTS, Incidents that include Insults to a head of our CARICOM sister country and most recently the insult HAND slap of a San Pedro journalist.
    In this incident a LIFE was taken which is a serious loss.
    The Coast personnel acted irresponsible driving their VESSELS at high speed in a small lagoon,
    IT is my belief that an independent investigation should be carried out and charges of MANSLAUGHTER be levied against these person.
    I encourage the Family of the of the victim to file A CIVIL LAWSUIT AGAINST those members and by extension the Government of Belize.
    The Coast Guard Rear Admiral aka “Jonny Bravo” refuse to make a comment and has his little Puppy aka “Porn Star” to add insult to the victim by merely blaming the death on mechanical error.
    Sometimes in life “Fool like to talk” but were not all fool who the listen,
    I pray to God for a swift retribution to those of you with blood on your hands, epically you Mr. Porn Star” BENNETT!!!!!!!!!

  6. KING says:


  7. miss thing says:

    I strongly believe it was negligence on the coast guards behalf. That whole mishap could have been avoided. And my buddy could have still been here with us….they should fire whosoever was driving the boasts because they were out drinking the night prior and got idle d next day and play chicken with peoples lives….madness i say!!!! God sees everything!!!!!!!!!! And i hope that the coast guard helps with the funeral as well seeing that it was their fault.

  8. MRS WAT EVER says:

    Remember GOD does not like ugly….It will be returned by 10 times!

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