here's the story referred to above in the Houston paper....

Local family fine after plane crash
By LUCAS WALL
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
Eight Houston-area residents survived a plane crash Friday evening in Belize, clinging for 90 minutes in a driving rainstorm to the fuselage that became submerged in shallow water before they were rescued.

Everyone aboard the 14-seat Cessna Caravan survived the impact with only minor injuries. The Tropic Air flight from Belize City to San Pedro went down 2 1/2 miles south of Ambergris Caye, a resort island in the Caribbean Sea popular with American vacationers.

Lance Dreyer, 62, and wife, Sharon, 56, of Houston were aboard the plane with two of their children, Chase, 25, and Chelsea, 22. The family said couples from Sugar Land and The Woodlands were also on the flight, but their names were not available Sunday evening.

The Dreyers were en route Friday to San Pedro for a five-day New Year's vacation, returning to the island for the sixth time in seven years to "just lay out on the beach, go fishing and snorkeling or scuba diving."

They have flown Tropic Air, a Belizean airline founded in 1979 by a Texas A&M graduate, each time for the 15-minute hop from Belize City. All prior flights were uneventful, they said.

The flight they were booked on Friday was full, however, so they were given boarding passes for the next departure. It was dark and raining as the plane took off for San Pedro. Lance Dreyer, a former pilot, said he became worried when the plane started weaving about 10 minutes out.

"I became concerned because the pilot is looking out the window," he said. "At night in a rainstorm, you watch your instruments, you don't look out the window.

"He started wiggling around. He was looking out the window and then with no warning -- he didn't cut back on the power or anything -- he hit (the water)."

There was confusion at first as passengers recovered from the impact and tried to discern their surroundings.

"When the plane landed on the water, we didn't know. I thought we had landed at San Pedro and he skidded off the runway," Lance Dreyer said. "A lot of people didn't understand. It happened so quickly."

His wife described the impact "like being in a car going 100 miles (per hour) plus and hitting a concrete wall."

As dust and smoke filled the cabin, Lance Dreyer opened the rear door.

"Water just went whoosh into the plane," he said. "Everybody was screaming. I got out of the plane and started pushing everyone up on top."

The Dreyers said they counted 13 people on the plane, including the pilot, with one empty seat. Belize police, however, said their report indicates the plane was full.

Once on top of the fuselage, the passengers could see the lights of San Pedro in the distance, so they knew land wasn't too far off.

"My concern was that the plane was totally going to sink," Lance Dreyer said. "I didn't know how deep it was."

So after ensuring everyone was out of the plane, he dove down and quickly reached the bottom. He could see the aircraft lodged in the sand, then surfaced to report the good news. It brought relief to anxious passengers.

"We kind of all laughed about it," he said. "At that point we knew: a) we survived the crash, b) the plane ain't going to sink any further, and c) the worst thing that's going to happen to us is we'll sit here all night but at least we're going to live."

Then several yellow life jackets floated out of the plane along with a few passengers' carry-on bags. One man from The Woodlands happened to have a VHF radio and global-positioning system in his bag. He radioed for help, reaching someone at the San Pedro airport, and relayed their coordinates. Rescue boats arrived about 30 minutes later and took everyone to San Pedro.

The Dreyers were driven to their hotel to warm up and eat. They lost most of their money and other carry-on items but would later discover a lucky break: Their luggage failed to make the flight and was still in Belize City.

They spent Friday night in San Pedro, then decided to scrub their vacation and return home. This time they took a water taxi to Belize City, where they had to visit the U.S. Embassy to obtain temporary travel documents before flying home Saturday evening.

G. Michael Reid, Belize Police Department spokesman, said his country's Transportation Ministry is investigating the incident, which he described as "an emergency landing."