Rogue teargas canister disrupts Carnival competition

The soca music was blaring ... the Carnival costumes were big and colourful ... and the Marion Jones stadium, packed to capacity. But someone in the crowd of onlookers at the annual King and Queen Carnival competition was armed with a canister of toxic fumes and malicious intent. And in the middle of the show, that individual detonated the device on the football field. The King competitor for Fantezhia Carnival Band had just taken the stage. Fireworks were part of his act but then came a plume of white smoke.

Edith Teseucum, Public Relations Officer, Belize Carnival Committee
“So when the smoke started coming, people assumed that it was just the firecrackers, all part of the presentation. It was when that actually hit you that you felt the prickling and the burning and everything and that’s when you knew something had gone terribly wrong. People started screaming and running. It was weird and it was frightening.”

The smoke hit fans, judges and masquerades head on. An estimated thirty people, including young children and police officers were affected by the airborne substance and had to seek medical treatment at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Police investigators have since recovered a canister of tear gas from the football field.

Senior Superintendent Crispin Jeffries, Head, Eastern Division
“I must tell you that it is not usual that C.S. gas be issued or out there in the public and we are doing internal investigations, and the Belize Defence Force is doing internal investigations as it relates to what was found. Should it could up that comes from any of the two organizations, it will be dealt with. We are in search of a key person who we believe might be able to shed some light on this, and we have confirmed that what was in the air came from a canister of tear gas irritant used in crowd dispersal. As far as we know, there is nothing to indicate to us, no intelligence to suggest that this particular incident may in any way disrupt. We believe this is an isolated incident. It can be compared to other incidents that we’ve seen. It is clearly either malicious or foolish act of an individual who may not have been aware of what he or she was doing at the time when this particular item was discharged.”

Edith Teseucum
“I think it was something done purposefully by people. I have to say and reiterate because this was mentioned before that this was not something that was done by any of the carnival bands. It was not because of any person what was upset over what was being said or over the judgment at the end of the day, because the competition was still underway. The competition had not finished nor had any announcers been, any announcement been made saying who would walk away as champions.”

Organizers tell News Five that because of Saturday's melee, the winner of the Queen competition will be announced later this week but the participants in the King category will have to be judged during the road march this Saturday. Police say the Fantezhia carnival band did not have permission to use fireworks in its act, as only the Belize Defence Force can authorize the use of such explosives. Fantezhia's organizers today declined to comment regarding Saturday's incident.