Exactly seven months ago today,
the nation of Belize woke up the
devastation of Hurricane Iris. But
even more disturbing than any
economic loss, was the sorrow
experienced by twenty families
who learned that their loved ones
had perished in the storm.
Eighteen tourists from the U.S. state of Virginia and
two Belizean crew members died aboard the MV
Wavedancer when it overturned during the height of
the hurricane in the waters of the Big Creek Port.
Public outrage following the mass drowning escalated
when it was revealed that the Belizeans had been
forced to stay on board by way of an ultimatum: Leave
the boat and leave your job behind. Three different
investigations were immediately launched, one by the
Ports Authority, another by IMMARBE the (Marine
Registry of Belize) and a third by the Belize Police
Department. But to date, nothing has been
forthcoming from any of those agencies. When News 5
contacted Ports Commissioner Alberto Mahler, he told
us that the little information they had gathered had
been forwarded to IMMARBE. While officials there tell
us the report should be completed by September of
this year, they are currently awaiting the statements
of the survivors, additional information from the Peter
Hughes Company, owner of the live-aboard diveboat,
and technical information on the vessel itself.
IMMARBE, according to its director general Angelou
Mouzouropoulos, says their investigation is not meant
to lay blame on anyone, but instead will recommend
how to avoid such occurrences in the future. As for the
police, according to Press Officer G. Michael Reid, the
department submitted their file to the office of the
Director of Public Prosecutions, who in turn determined
that there was insufficient evidence to charge the
captain of the Wavedancer, Philip Martin, with any
wrongdoing. The D.P.P. also recommended that the
Harbour Master conduct an independent review and
should he find that any negligence had been
committed, the police would reopen the case. But
remember, the Port Authority-- which is the harbour
master's employer--has already said that they are
relying on the findings of IMMARBE, but IMMARBE says
they are not concerned with who is at fault. So where
does all this leave the families still grieving their
loved ones? Apparently, clueless. Family members of
the late Brenda Wade tell News 5 that they have been
forwarded no information about any of the
investigations and have no idea what is happening
with the case. While lawyers appearing on behalf of
Wade and Eloisa Johnson, the other crewmember who
died that night, have filed a lawsuit against the dive
company in the States, that case might take years
before landing in front a judge. As for the Peter
Hughes Company, their website is proudly announcing
that as of August seventeenth, they will once again be
operating in Belizean waters using the company's
flagship, the MV Star Dancer. The site even quotes
Hughes as saying, "There was never any doubt we
would return to Belize. We are extremely excited to be
going back." As for the MV Wavedancer, she remains
moored along the mangroves of Big Creek, apparently
the only memorial to a disaster that authorities seem
determined to forget.