Debris found, hope fades for couple missing at sea
By GLENN EVANS
AMBERGRIS CAY, Belize — Hopes for the survival of an American couple lost in Hurricane Keith faded Tuesday night as word came that a homing signal on their boat led rescuers to debris.

Belize residents Buddy and Kay Smith were moving a catamaran to an inland dock on Sunday as the storm arrived and contact was lost.

Buddy Smith's sister, Dory Blevins of Longview, said Monday that her brother had last been heard describing water invading the 47-foot boat. The couple was moving the boat inland for its owner, a friend in Port Aransas.

Blevins said Tuesday the U.S. Coast Guard had sent a C-130 transport plane to the area. A coordinated sea-air effort was following a tracking signal assigned to the boat.

A friend called the Longview News-Journal on Blevins' behalf later Tuesday to report that only debris had been found. The signal was originating below the water surface.

The Smiths moved to San Pedro, Belize, from the Bahamas, about a year ago, Blevins said. A North Louisiana businessman, Buddy Smith had retired to the area.

Keith weakened to a tropical depression Tuesday, with winds of 33 mph as the storm moved over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

It left Belize City knee-deep in flood waters and drained shallow bay inlets along the Caribbean nation's shore.

The Associated Press reported that no deaths or injuries had been confirmed by Tuesday night.

On the island of Ambergris Cay, about 12 miles off Belize’s coast and site of the Smith's home, two hotels had their roofs torn off, Belize City Red Cross Director William Skeen told the AP.

Blevins said the Coast Guard had reported 40 inches of rainfall there.

The Smiths lived in one of the few brick houses, and one neighbor had fled to their house without knowing the couple were gone, she said. Blevins had been in contact with that neighbor through e-mail from her brother's home computer.




[This message has been edited by Marty (edited 10-07-2000).]