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#11540 10/09/01 11:07 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 208
OP Offline
I'm in Iowa and, while reading these posts, heard on national radio news about the Wave Dancer. Only thing they said there that is not on these posts already is that most, if not all, passengers were thought to have been from the Virginia area.

Our thoughts are with the beautiful country of Belize.

#11541 10/09/01 11:30 AM
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Yes, the national news services are saying the divers were from the Richmond, Va., area -- apparently a dive club that had chartered the Wave Dancer.

The question is, why did the boat go south to Big Creek when weather information generally called for the storm to be tracking south/southwest rather than north?

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First
#11542 10/09/01 11:41 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 32
Big Creek has some of the "best" protection for the whole coast of Belize, and the larger boats have always gone there for shelter from these storms. This was a very odd and fast moving storm that caught everyone off guard as it veered to the south. Once the boats were in motion they had few options but to get into the Big Creek Harbor...

#11543 10/09/01 11:43 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
like the fantome, i bet they saw the track projected headed north, so went south to get below it, and come out under and behind it.

then when the track kept dropping south, maybe they got stuck in the corner.

just a guess. the tracking map dropped hundreds of miles south in the last 24 hours. bet they couldn't react that fast.

at least fantome was able to offload their paying customers.

and i guarantee the crew wanted off too. but watched the tourists depart and sailed off to their graves.

heck of a book (The Ship and the Storm) on the fantome and mitch i read recently. Ray Auxillou had an acknowledgment at the end for the help he gave the author.

A gripping story of not only the Fantome but people in the Bay Islands and Trujillo during the course of Mitch.

[This message has been edited by Marty (edited 10-09-2001).]

#11544 10/09/01 11:48 AM
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 85
The question is...why do people who don't know the ocean, boats or large storms always try to second guess those that perish when the odds turn against them?

#11545 10/09/01 12:09 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
here's the latest AP story:
Feared Dead in Boat Capsizing
By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday October 9 12:08 PM ET

BELIZE CITY, Belize (AP) - A 120-foot dive boat carrying vacationing Virginians capsized as Hurricane Iris roared into Belize, and 20 on board were feared dead Tuesday.

Twenty-eight people, mostly tourists from Virginia, were aboard the MV Wave Dancer as Iris hit southern Belize with 140-mph winds Monday night, said Patricia Rose, spokeswoman for Peter Rose Diving in Miami.

The storm had mostly dissipated by noon Tuesday, and it was not immediately clear whether Iris had caused any other deaths in the region.

Rose said eight survivors had been accounted for Tuesday morning. The boat, which capsized Monday night, was chartered by the Richmond Dive Club of Richmond, Va. The dive club had started a weeklong trip to Belize on Saturday.

The vessel had been tied to a dock among mangrove trees along with other dive boats and commercial boats near Big Creek, close to where the storm came ashore some 80 miles south-southwest of Belize City.

``A strong storm surge lifted the boat in the air, snapping the line and capsizing it. The boat may have hit a wall or the dock,'' she said.

``Belize City was evacuated so we could not put the guests in a hotel. We were forced to keep them on the boat,'' she said.

The boat capsized in about 12 feet of water but did not sink completely.

``We're hoping for survivors, but I don't know that it's likely,'' Rose said.

In Richmond, Michael Carr of the dive club said he had little information other than that the boat had capsized. ``We don't know how many are missing at this time,'' Carr said. He said he would make a formal statement during a meeting of the club Tuesday night.

Local radio stations reported that Iris flattened several coastal towns as it hit Monday night, destroying hundreds of houses.

The hurricane raised seas by 13 to 18 feet above normal, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, and forecasters predicted rainfall totals of five to eight inches.

The storm crossed most of the Central American isthmus overnight. By morning, Iris had weakened to a tropical depression centered about 45 miles southeast of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico.

The British Army, which has 250 soldiers in Belize at a training center, pledged to help in rescue operations.

``Reports we have received suggest that parts of the country where it hit hardest have taken a very bad battering,'' said Major John Knopp, second-in-command of the British Army Training Support Unit in Ladyville, 12 miles north of Belize City.

The storm destroyed many houses in Placencia, a fishing village and resort town of several hundred people where many homes are small wooden structures on stilts, said a resident, Andrea Villanueva.

``Our own roof went and most of the houses went down,'' Villanueva told local LOVE-FM radio.

North of the storm, intermittent heavy rains and winds blew through Belize City, a low-lying, seaside city of 65,000 people where soldiers went door to door to evacuate people from their homes.

In 1961, Hurricane Hattie destroyed much of Belize City, prompting the country to move its capital inland to Belmopan.

Civil defense authorities in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras issued alerts anticipating heavy rains from Iris, and thousands of people left low-lying areas for higher ground.

[This message has been edited by Marty (edited 10-09-2001).]

#11546 10/09/01 12:21 PM
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 17
SBW Offline
It sounds to me as if they were in relative safe harbour....a strange set and very unfortunate set of circumstances....prayers to all....

#11547 10/09/01 01:27 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Wave Dancer mooring decision for the Hurricane Hole of Big Creek.

Interesting question.

The Belize river is the normal place, through Haulover Creek and the bridges in past hurricanes. You can get up as far as the airport. But the mouth of the river had been neglected and I doubt a 120 foot boat would be able to cross the bar anymore. I used not to be able to that from 20 years ago. So the Belize River is out.

Depending on draft of the vessel, Sittee River was a possibility, but that is limited to 5 foot of water on the bar.

Big Creek where Wave Dancer was, seems to have been indeed, the best choice, given the time elements. It would have been an eight hour or more trip to get there, maybe longer. That meant they were travelling with whatever foreknowledge of the hurricane path they had. Remember that hurricane was travelling in excess of 22 mph ground speed. It did not leave any anticipation lag time. I myself, would have thought he picked an excellent place, the only other being Livingston, on the Rio Dulce, or the naval basin in Puerto Barrios.

Remember also, almost to the last minute, or the last hour, we all thought this hurricane was going to hit Dangriga and in the last hour or so, that it would hit Sittee River. The sudden swerve to the south and Placentia and even Monkey River, meant a change of direction of 30 to 50 sea miles along a curving coast toward the southwest. If you include the fact, that hurricanes normally curve northward if they curve at all, then the river at Big Creek, which can take an ocean going ship in close confines, but with depth of water was a good one. Under the same or similar circumstances with that big a boat, I think the Captain made the right choice.

Even getting hit by a hurricane and in that area, I would like to have had my boat at Big Creek. It is well sheltered from winds, by mangroves and trees and is protected also by land. A dead hit by the Hurricane Eye, or near to, for the storm surge to come right at you, would have negated all the safety features. There is little you can do, when your boat is lifted up 15 feet, above the trees into the force of the wind. To broach and turn sideways is normal for any boat not under power in those circumstances. Nor would any boat survive a Force 4 storm anyplace.

As an experienced Captain in those waters, I fault not the decision to park there as a Hurricane hole. It was a good decision, a wise decision and just the luck of the draw; that at the last minute in an hour or so, or a couple of hours, the hurricane veered south to hit the place head on. There would be no other place on the coast to go. The storm surge did him in, otherwise that was the best protected place to be, that was available. With my own knowledge and experience, I would do the same thing today, if in the night before a hurricane was coming my way on the latitude of Dangriga on a steady westward track. There were no hurricane holes in the north that could provide protection for such a large vessel. Looking from one day ahead, it was a good decision and probably the most secure decision he could make. But who can forecast a hurricane twists and turns, or a womens temper?
The least danger for a hurricane is on the south side and obviously he tried to do that.

Should they have got their customers off? In hindsight yes! At the time, it didn't seem like a good idea that much. That is a remote area and remember anyplace they got off, to go to; which would have been Hurricane Shelters got demolished also. Perhaps they would have been better off on land, but by the time they realized that, there was no land in sight. Storm surge covered it all. It is a ways, several miles to Independence and I think only one taxi in the whole place when I was down there in April. Did they have time, to consider it? No! They did not. That storm changed direction in the last hour. They were perfectly safe, if the hurricane had hit Dangriga, or Sittee River. The only scenario that put them in danger, was being directly in front of the EYE and that storm surge, which was probably about 8 miles wide. Unfortunately that is what hit them.
I think, I would have made the same decision! Tie up to the trees, well protected and hope like hell that EYE was going to hit Dangriga, or Sittee River. Which it should have, by all indications. Keep your people aboard, because they go inland, they are going to get hit with flying debris and hurricane force 4, or 3 winds. Safest place was the boat, except if the eye hit. Which it did, but was not obvious at all until the last hour. There were no safe places ashore and they were more dangerous, unless the EYE would suddenly shift at the last minute and hit you with the storm surge. Which is what happened. There was no place to run too.

Captain Ray Auxillou

[This message has been edited by Marty (edited 10-09-2001).]

#11548 10/09/01 01:31 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Ray: The boats that go from San Pedro to Turneffe get their in an hour and
a half. The fastest ones can make it in an hour and fifteen minutes.
The first messages about Iris started hitting this list on October 4.
Nobody on this list has "inside info" they just look at the same hurricane
sources available to anybody with an internet connection.At that point, it
was a tropical storm and was heading in the general area of Belize.
Lots more messages on October 5, tracking the storm. By that time, Belize
was a definite target, the only question was WHERE would it hit.
On October 6, people on Ambergris Caye were talking evacuation.
On October 7, the evacuation was in full force. Planes flying in and out of
every airstrip in Belize, taking people here and there.
Why were the people on the Wave Dancer not on those planes?
Or in cars?
They could have charted any number of vehicles with one phone call.
There is simply no excuse to have people IN A BOAT IN THE WATER when they
had 4 days warning. The issue is not what they should have done on October
8. The issue is not where was the safest place to have a boat full of
people in the water on October 8. The issue is what they should have done
on October 5, October 6 and October 7 to get the people OFF THE BOAT and to
These people -- tourists and employees -- trusted the captain to keep them
safe and instead he listened to the bean counters in the office and they are
all DEAD.


#11549 10/09/01 01:45 PM
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 7
In case the article might be of help to someone, here is what the Virginia Times dispatch had to say:

Oct 09, 2001

17 Dive Club Members Feared Dead in Belize

Seventeen members of the Richmond Dive Club were apparently killed in Belize late last night when 140-mph winds and 18-foot seas from Hurricane Iris capsized their boat while it sought shelter from the storm.

Glenn Prillaman, the club's president and Bon Air resident, was among the confirmed dead, authorities said this morning. No other names of those presumed dead were available.

Three members of the dive club were confirmed to have survived: David DeBarger, Richard Patterson and Mary Lou Hayden. Word on their conditions was not available. DeBarger called his son in California this morning to let him know he was OK.

Ten bodies were recovered by yesterday afternoon as search-and-rescue operations continued in Belize. Because of communication difficulties, club officials were still trying to find out what precisely happened. Authorities in Belize were not immediately available for comment.

The two boats that were part of the trip, Wave Dancer and Aggressor, moved from the coast of Belize inland to safety, said Tom Conlin, executive vice president of Peter Hughes Diving Inc. The Miami-based operation, which owns the boats and lost three crew members, was coordinating the trip with the Richmond club.

"They were in a safe place to be," Conlin said. "It was a known hurricane haven, and they were around other boats."

The Wave Dancer was tied to a dock in a mangrove along with other dive commercial boats near the Monkey River, close to where the storm came ashore, some 80 miles south-southwest of Belize City.

"Belize City was evacuated, so they had to stay on board the boat," said Patricia Rose, a spokeswoman for Peter Hughes Diving.

Conlin and other officials said pounding winds and surging seas apparently lifted the 120-foot Wave Dancer, which had 20 dive club members on it, and shot it straight up before smashing it against the dock. The boat capsized in about 12 feet of water.

The Aggressor suffered little damage, Conlin said. Twelve people on that boat were unharmed.

Some contact was made around with the Wave Dancer around 11:30 last night, but Conlin said communication with the boats was lost for several hours overnight.

"We made contact again when the eye passed," he said.

Jenny Chappell, membership coordinator for the Richmond Dive Club, got word around 2 o'clock this morning about what had happened. She began calling family members of people on the trip.

"We're trying just to let them know and offering them our prayers," she said.

Jim McNeal, owner of The Dive Shop in Richmond, said his telephone was ringing off the hook when he arrived at work this morning around 9 a.m. He spent the morning relaying information to friends and relatives of people on the trip.

McNeal said he has known some of the people on the trip for more than 20 years. He said accounts from Belize suggest the group was acting responsibily to seek protection from the storm.

"They were doing everything they should do," he said.

McNeal said that part of the Carribean is difficult to reach but excellent for sport-diving and underwater photography, with crystal clear water, a lot of corral and plenty of fish.

"Other clubs have had sinks without injuries," he said. "This one capsized with people on board and that's infinitely more dangerous. This is an extremely, extremely rare thing, which makes it that much more of a tragedy."

The trip started Oct. 6 and was supposed to end Saturday.

Participants paid $1,870 to $2,150, including round-trip airfare from Richmond to Belize City, and were promised five dives per day/night in the warm, clear water of places like Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye Wall. Divers were told to expect plenty of marine life, including green turtles, spotted eagle rays, octopuses, tarpons and sharks.

So many club members were interested in the trip that a second boat was chartered. The trip "is the perfect way to do all the diving, eating and resting you want," a page on the club's Web site said.

The club will hold its regular meeting tonight at 7 at La Siesta Mexican Restaurant on Midlothian Turnpike.

This story can be found at :

John in Canada
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