Former Prime Minister injured in accident

Tonight former Prime Minister and current Senior Financial Advisor to government, Manuel Esquivel, is recovering at the Belize Medical Associates after his SUV flipped several times on the Western Highway. Esquivel is in serious but stable condition, much to the relief of family and friends... but as News Five reporters Duane Moody and Marion Ali discovered, this morning’s incident bears an uncanny similarity to another accident the former P.M. was involved in over a decade ago.

Duane Moody, Reporting

Skid marks on the Western Highway mark the location where the accident occurred around eight-forty this morning at mile thirty-one near the entrance to Mahogany Heights. Former Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel was making his way to Belmopan when his driver, William Schnarr, lost control of the government issued Nissan Pathfinder, slid off the road, hit a culvert and flipped in the air before coming to a halt on the roadside.

Julio Reyes, Eyewitness

“I was coming from the opposite way when I saw this vehicle just run off the road, clean. It was must have been the wet road because it was drizzling and the vehicle wasn’t going that fast, probably fifty, fifty-five. Probably what he did is break because I saw the vehicle kinda slowed down and it ran out of the road completely, then it flipped when it touched the culvert; flipped in the air, then it dropped and slipped bout three to four times and the vehicle was totally destroyed. As soon as I saw the vehicle stop rotate, I called 911 for the ambulance.”

Beverly Castillo, C.E.O., Min. of Natural Resources/Environment
“When we approached the scene, we saw the vehicle in the bushes and the driver was just about exiting the vehicle, he obviously was bleeding. He had a cut wound to the head; that was the only visible wound I could have seen and Mr. Esquivel was sitting inside the vehicle and obviously he was also filled with blood and there appears to be no visible signs. It appears to have been a cut wound in his head also, he was in a little bit of pain and obviously, we made a decision not to move him, we wanted the ambulance to come and make that decision. So he was alert, he was talking, he recognized me and we held his hand and tried to keep him alert and assure him that the ambulance was on its way.”

Esquivel was rushed to the Western Regional Hospital and shortly after taken by air-ambulance to the Belize Medical Associates where he was stabilized.

Dr. Fernando Cuellar, attending Physician
“Mr. Esquivel came to us just after eleven o’clock. Unfortunately, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident and he suffered a number of injuries. He was conscious when he came, he was alert, he was orientated. He had a lot of facial swelling and complaining of pain in that area and to his right shoulder. And after a complete and thorough review along with some cat-scans, we have concluded that the only injuries that he has suffered is some bones to the face broken along with the jaw and a broken left shoulder. Fortunately, the brain did not suffer any injury. His chest is good, his lungs, the vital organs in his chest and also his abdomen.”

Marion Ali
“So the severity of his injuries, how serious are they?”

Dr Fernando Cuellar
“Well they are considered serious because they can affect his airways but he’s stable. I am of the opinion that given his injury right now he should make a complete recovery, with some time, of course.”

As for Schnarr, he suffered a cut wound to his head and some other abrasions. After the mishap, he was able to alight the vehicle on his own. He was transferred to Western Regional Hospital and then later on to Belize City for treatment.

In a strange coincidence, this morning’s accident occurred three miles from another road mishap thirteen years ago. On March twenty-seventh, 1996 the then Prime Minister’s vehicle flipped several times and while Esquivel made it out with only minor injuries, his driver Sgt. Leslie Staine, later died. That accident was due to slick road conditions and it appears that may also the case today as eyewitnesses says Schnarr was definitely not speeding.

Voice of Eyewitness
“It wasn’t speeding; that is what is shocking. It wasn’t speeding and Mr. Esquivel even waved at some people that was at the junction waiting for the buses to come and shortly after they went past the junction, it lost control over that area there before by that tree and sped off the road. I can only relate it to the condition of the roads.”

Duane Moody
“You feel that the road was wet that’s why they slipped off?”

Voice of Eyewitness
“It had just finished raining about three to four minutes before that and that definitely is, I think, the major factor here in the accident here. If you walk in the road right now and rub your feet on the road like that right now in your shoes, you’ll feel the slipperiness of the road.”

Duane Moody
“I know you said they weren’t traveling fast, but do you think that despite that it could have caused such a freak accident?”

Voice of Eyewitness
“Yes, certainly. If you look at this road closely you would notice that there are a lot of oil spills on road along with the wet condition and of course the road is a road that apparently needs resurfacing or something like that.”

Julio Reyes
“It was the slippery road because at mile thirty-one that curve is very, very slippery and any lee brakes that you put on, it will throw you out of the road.”

Duane Moody, reporting for News Five.

Esquivel’s attending physician, Doctor Fernando Cuellar reports that Esquivel will remain at the hospital for another day or two before being flown out of the country for reconstructive surgery to his fractured facial bones.

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