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#434837 - 04/04/12 03:07 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
Bear Offline
"It has also been determined that at the time water conditions in the area were quite turbulent."

Guide to snorkelers ratios, life vests, tow rings, 2nd guide in boat..all that aside, the condition of the water is the underlying issue here. If the reported facts bear scrutiny, to have four of seven people pulled out should be an indication of just how bad it was. My wife was so horrified by the thought of these poor folks being separated from their group, panicking, and subjected to the waves and reef she compared it to being eaten alive...which is basically what the sea did here.

#434841 - 04/04/12 03:46 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
belizeonthebeach Offline
It would seem that the park rangers could have prevented the whole incident.
Hol Chan is not that large of an area that the rangers could not have intervened as soon as the snorkelers hit the water.
Is their job just to collect money?

#434849 - 04/04/12 04:53 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: belizeonthebeach]
MikeD Offline
There is no way it is a ranger's fault. They are there to police the park...from fishing and activities that might endanger the reef. They collect a fee from the operators, but I believe all they do at sea is a headcount of people on board. There is no safety check performed by the rangers.

I dive often when in Belize. I do not dive with a particular shop because the employees were more concerned about fixing defective equipment (of which there was a lot) than planning a safe dive and making sure everyone knew what to expect. Snorkelers and divers are often unfamiliar with the area and currents. Safe operations brief all participants about EACH DIVE, currents, signals etc..

Planning is the key to a safe and successful dive/snorkeling. Plan the dive and follow the plan. Unfortunately it is difficult to assess the safety of an operation prior to actually diving with them. Eight people (max allowed per guide) is a lot to keep your eye on and in the conditions of that day it seems that things got out of control quickly.

The bottom line is each diver is responsible for their own safety. If you are unsure of yourself in the conditions...DON'T DIVE.

Edited by MikeD (04/04/12 04:57 PM)

#434850 - 04/04/12 05:23 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
belizeonthebeach Offline
If the sea was that rough and the current that strong the rangers should not have let inexperienced snorkelers out of the boat.
Safety should be their main concern.
If a ranger in any park I have visited deems the park to be unsafe due to any number of natural events they close it in a heartbeat.
I am not suggesting that the tour guides be let off the hook by any means. Just my opinion.

#434854 - 04/04/12 07:00 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
seashell Offline
How is a ranger to determine who is an inexperienced snorkeler? Yes, safety should be the main concern. But who has the most experience with local sea conditions AND taking out snorkelers? I understand that it can be very difficult to say no to the tourists who may have what they believe is "their one chance" to do a famous Belizean snorkel site and also to turn down daily revenue. Yes, snorkelers can decide not to get off the boat once they see for themselves, but really, how is a 'new to the site' snorkeler going to have any idea that they may be pulled out to sea? I know that can happen, and you know that can happen, and so do the tour service companies. Sadly, it is up to them to make the call on whether or not conditions are safe enough. If they deem it an intermediate safety concern, then they should be putting more guides in the water. If they deem it no problem and so took out the snorkelers, then the guide should have picked up on the problem as soon as they hit the water and gathered everyone back up as quickly as possible.
A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

#434855 - 04/04/12 07:03 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
seashell Offline
It is truly a deep sadness that people have lost their lives.

And an ongoing consequence to this, will be the negative 'word of mouth' both for the guide service AND for the site. All the tour guide service had to do that day, was say, sorry, we can't go out today, conditions are too dangerous. Better that they get bad mouthed a couple of times for that, than the tragedy that has occurred instead.
A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

#434856 - 04/04/12 07:09 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
iluvbelize Offline
An experienced snorkel guide should know that those water conditions were not for tourist snorkelers who should be considered to only have limited snorkeling experience under ideal conditions. Tow rings should be allotted to those by offering, and to take that many people into the channel in those conditions was in my opinion injudicious and dangerous. The fact that all of the snorkelers suffered physical (and emotional) injury from being banged up on the reef, not to mention two drowning from the the water conditions, indicates that a different location would have been a proper alternate choice...for tourists who should be assumed unfamiliar with the activity in that location under those conditions. It is terribly sad for all involved, families, etc. and the tour operators.

#434858 - 04/04/12 07:17 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
Bear Offline
Mike makes a good point about the rangers' responsibilties. I'd simply add that in as much as I agree that the Rangers are the enforcement arm of the Reserve, I still think it's encumbent on the Reserve mangers to recognise their responsibilities for public safety within the park. They need to accept this and seriously consider creating a closure program when conditions at the cut are determined to be unsafe for snorkeling tours and perhaps even diving. When such conditions exist the park needs to issue a closure and provide the directives to the rangers to enforce that within the moorings of the area. Weather is forecast everyday, why cant the conditions at the cut be evaluated similarly? I dont think the rangers should be put in the position of arbitrarily making these decisions. I think someone or some agency needs to decide what the criteria are, establish a procedure, and let the rangers and tour operators know the results.

Any certified diver has had a rigorous course that trains and challenges them in ways no novice snorkeler has ever had to deal with. The dive cert course is required and intended to teach people to dive safely. The cert dive is a practicum exam that ensures the instructor you are prepared to deal with certain eventualities. No snorkeler ever has to do that to get in the water at the cut. When a tour guide takes up to 8 people out he has no idea (other than perhaps a rough one from simple questioning) as to the level of each individuals exeperience. He cant know how people will react. I also think it's possible that the local guides, who are such complete waterdogs anyway, can overestimate their charges abilities relative to their own. It takes very little in the way of a brief event for an inexperienced person to become panicked in rough water. Simply being startled or drifting off a bit and subsequently feeling a loss of control can induce panic. Once it sets in it's nearly impossible for an individual to overcome that emotion by themselves; rational thought departs. If you've ever had to approach a drowning person you can see the animal panic and desperation in their eyes.

Inexperienced snorkelers put their trust in the guide, yes the truly uncertain person backs out, most don't. I think we need to seriously consider a way to preclude such tragedies and perhaps take certain decisions out of the hands of the operators and their charters if for nothing more than to spare everyone the agonies of yesterday.

#434864 - 04/04/12 11:08 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: MikeD]
rosieakalynn Offline
A rare but tragic incident at Hol Chan. My condolences to the families.

#434866 - 04/04/12 11:22 PM Re: Snorkeling Accident [Re: rosieakalynn]
Sober Offline
From my own experiences of visiting Hol Chan, the Rangers would always warn about the current, and would advise people not to go past a buoy in the channel. This is a tragic accident and we should not start forming opinions on whom or what is to blame until the facts are known. I too send my condolences to all involved.

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