A Frenchie's dive boat on a routine dive trip to the Blue Hole was hit by lightning on Sunday morning July 1st. In the aftermath, one man lay dead and another lay unconscious. A third was left suffering with minor burns.
As is normal with the dive company, it loaded its dive boat with ten tourists, one captain divemaster and one assistant captain divemaster and headed out to sea. The boat left the dock at 6:30 a.m.
Not even ten minutes into the boat ride, the captain spotted a patch of bad weather up ahead and decided to abort the trip. Sensing danger, Captain Karl Pariente turned the boat around and headed back to shore. Not even five minutes from shore, a lightning bolt struck the boat's radio antennae. The boat was already inside the protected waters of the reef.
One of the passengers on board the boat was 22 year old park ranger, Daryl Teo. A ranger at Half Moon Caye National Park, Teo had missed two other rides to the island over the weekend. As a generous gesture, the dive shop had allowed the park ranger to board the boat and be dropped off on the island when the dive boat made its second scheduled dive stop there. No one could imagine that this would be his last day at sea.
Finding themselves surrounded by clapping thunder and a dazszling show of lightning bolts, the young Teo grabbed onto the boat's radio antennae for balance. At the same time, Captain Karl Pariente grabbed onto the metal steering wheel as he attempted to maneuver the boat to safety. It was at that moment that one of the lightening bolts struck the boat sending both men unconscious to the boat floor.
Aware of the danger they were all in, the second in command, Jose Enriquez, steered the boat towards Caye Chapel.
At 7:00 a.m., exactly half an hour after they had left the dock, dive shop owner Abel received the call that two of his men were down.
An immediate call was placed to BATSUB for a helicopter medevac. Due to the frightening storm, the helicopter was unable to be immediately dispatched. When the helicopter made a touchdown approximately one hour later, Teo had already succumbed to his injuries. Captain Karl, however, had regained some consciousness, but remained in a semi-conscious state. Both men were immediately transported by air ambulance to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
Eyewitnesses on the boat say that the lightning bolt was so powerful, it melted the gold and silver jewelery of several of the men, leaving holes in the flesh where the jewelery once stood.
Reports are that Captain Karl Pariente has regained full consciousness, but remains hospitalized.