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Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 2
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Just heard a 10 million dollar lawsuit has been filed in Miami against the owners of Wave Dancer on behalf of Eloisa Johnson-Hall, a crew member who died.

There is an excellent investigative report on the entire incident just posted at (see Special Report on Wave Dancer). The report has put together much useful information, and paints a very dim picture indeed of the entire Wave Dancer operation

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Here's the info off that site....

Tornado may have caused Wave Dancer deaths

INDEPENDENCE, Belize, Oct. 16 -- A tornado may have spun off Hurricane Iris and ripped the MV Wave Dancer from a dock in southern Belize and rolled it underwater Oct. 8, killing 17 scuba divers and three crew members.

That is the conclusion of investigators from Lloyd's of London, the Wave Dancer's insurance carrier, said Peter A. McLauchlan, a partner in the law firm representing the owners of the 120-foot adventure boat.

"Knowing what I know now, it's amazing anyone made it out alive," McLauchlan said after spending several days in Big Creek, where the disaster occurred. Fifteen of the 20 victims were from the Richmond, Va., area.

An official government investigation has not been completed.

Tornadoes frequently spin off fast-moving hurricanes. Belize locals have wondered if the hit-or-miss damage in their villages was compounded by twisters on top of Iris' 140 mph winds and sea surges.

McLauchlan said eyewitness accounts, physical evidence and twisting damage in nearby wreckage led to the tornado conclusion.

For example, Wave Dancer videographer Thomas Baechtold of Sweden, who was found alive in the mangroves some 300 feet away, told investigators it felt like he was plucked out of the water by 20 pairs of hands and flung far away.

Ropes holding the boat snapped, and cleats were torn off the boat and the large concrete dock.

But Angelo Mouzouropoulos, director-general of the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize, said although the tornado theory has merit, his agency has not concluded its investigation.

Among the loose ends are comments made by one of the survivors aboard the Wave Dancer broadcast by Belize television.

Angela Luk, the boat's assistant cook for five months, told Channel 5 News in Belize she was told by the Wave Dancer's captain she would be fired if she left the Wave Dancer to find shelter shortly before the hurricane hit.

"He said, 'If you go, you're not coming back.' I said, 'That's fine, I'm still going. I'm not going to be stupid and stay on the boat and risk my life,'" Luk recalled.

Luk told the television station she tried to convince other crew members to come with her. "They was really worried, there was crying and they was confused. They don't know if they should go home, they wonder if they could go back to Corozal or if they should stay on the boat. But they decided to stay."

Three of those crew members died. The Wave Dancer's captain declined to discuss what happened.

Mouzouropoulos has made arrangements to meet Luk. "I have heard this allegation, and I am investigating it," he said.

He said he also has investigated the allegation those aboard the Wave Dancer were drinking and having a "Hurricane Party," as was reported in the news in Belize and in at least one major newspaper in America.

"Absolutely not," Mouzouropoulos said. "I have completely and utterly exhausted that one. No trace. And I was gunning for that one. If there was evidence [of heavy drinking], I'd be the first one to jump on it like a ton of bricks."

The Wave Dancer was properly registered and inspected, and "it would appear at the moment all precautions had been taken to properly and correctly secure the vessel at the dock," Mouzouropoulos said.

That contrasts with the account of tugboat captain Earl Young, who was in his tug and watching when the Wave Dancer broke free from the dock in front of him. Young said he believes the Wave Dancer was tied too tightly to the dock to account for the vast storm surge.

Mouzouropoulos said there is much left to do before a conclusion can be reached. "You can rest assured there will be a proper report," he said.

Bart Stanley, dive master aboard the Wave Dancer, said the boat's owners and lawyers asked him not to discuss issues surrounding the vessel's demise.

But the Belize City resident said the storm defied human comprehension. He said he survived "by the will of God."

One moment, Stanley said, they were finishing dinner in the salon. The next, the storm was lashing them furiously.

When the boat broke free and flipped, "I didn't have time to think." He found himself underwater for a full minute or more, "all soaked in diesel" from the spilling tanks. Between the diesel and the salt water, he was blinded.

"I pictured the boat upside down and felt my way out," said Stanley, 29.

He was running out of breath, thinking of his three daughters, when one hand felt the door leading out. His other hand brushed something.

"I felt a hand," Stanley said. So he grabbed it and pulled it out with him. It was attached to a fellow crew member, who also survived.

"All of these crew members were absolutely heroic in their efforts to save people," McLauchlan said.

Peter Hughes, head of Peter Hughes Diving Inc. of Miami, has been among the company's representatives who have been on the scene at Big Creek during the past week.

Hughes and the Wave Dancer's captain, Phillip Martin, were among those who pulled the last victim from the Wave Dancer on Thursday.

A few minutes before the recovery, Hughes sat on a banana pallet, hugging his knees and sobbing.

The bodies of the Richmond victims were flown from Belize on Sunday and have been taken to area funeral homes. (

Wave Dancer survivors return from Belize

NORFOLK, Virginia, Oct. 11 -- Trapped in the depths of a capsized boat and unable to determine a path to swim to safety, David DeBarger couldn't avoid making a deadly conclusion.

"Is this the way it's going to end?"

DeBarger and other Richmond Dive Club members who survived a disaster that claimed 17 of their colleagues in Belize returned to Virginia late last night.

After arriving at Norfolk International Airport, three of the survivors from the MV Wave Dancer, which was capsized when Hurricane Iris battered the southern coast of Belize late Monday, spoke briefly to reporters.

DeBarger, Mary Lou Hayden and Richard Patterson held hands and fought off tears during their impromptu news conference. DeBarger, creative services director at WCVE/WCVW and vice president of the dive club, did most of the speaking.

"We were on the wrong side of the hurricane," he said, shaking his head, when asked to describe what happened.

DeBarger said that even with an approaching hurricane, everyone felt comfortable on the 120-foot-long Wave Dancer, which was moored in Big Creek port. But once the storm struck, he said, it was just 12-13 seconds before the boat capsized, everything went dark and water surged into the vessel.

DeBarger's initial thought - "I'm not going to die in this boat" - was soon replaced by the sinking feeling that he might be wrong. He swam down a corridor, only to find it led to a dead end.

But suddenly he saw a light in the corridor and swam toward it. It was a flashlight being held by Hayden, who was with Patterson. They were near an emergency exit, which had a window that they kicked out, allowing them to swim to the surface.

They found a life raft on the surface, grabbed it and were immediately blown ashore.

After about 45 minutes in high winds and horizontal rain, they were spotted by the captain of the Belize Aggressor, another dive boat. The captain sent a small motorized landing craft to get them.

Since the storm passed, the three have had time to ponder their fates.

"We wonder about that every moment," Hayden said. "Why are we here and they not? And we miss them terribly."

One they will miss is club president Glenn Prillaman.

Club member David Mowrer said he and Hayden pulled Prillaman to shore and immediately started CPR on him. He was regurgitating water and his pupils were dilated. They worked on him for about 20 minutes.

"We thought we were going to save him but he was already gone," said Mowrer, a 53-year-old diving instructor from Chesterfield County.

Family and friends of Richmond Dive Club members chartered a bus to go to the Norfolk airport and greet the survivors.

On the ride back to Richmond, passengers mostly sat quietly, carrying on intimate conversations between pairs of people.

Lynn McNeal, co-owner of The Dive Shop and club member, went to Norfolk to comfort friends who had survived the ordeal.

"It must have been awful for them to get back on that plane, to know there was 30 going there and only 13 coming back." (Times-Dispatch)


Peter Hughes Wave Dancer tragedy under investigation

BIG CREEK, Belize, Oct. 12 -- Shortly after lunch yesterday, the owners of the Peter Hughes Wave Dancer climbed through some portside windows to assess damage to their crippled vessel.

What they found was the final victim of the tragedy that claimed 17 members of the Richmond Dive Club in the howling winds of Hurricane Iris on Monday night.

The discovery of the body of Phyllis Cox ended any hope of finding any more survivors from the boat following the worst hurricane to hit Belize in four decades.

Shortly before her body was discovered inside the 120-foot-long dive vessel, searchers found the body of her husband, Doug, in a stand of mangrove trees on shore several hundred yards away from where the crippled Wave Dancer lay after being capsized in the Category 4 hurricane.

The dive expedition firm's supervisors climbed into the boat and brought out the body of Phyllis Cox.

Once both bodies were recovered, men from the British Army's 1st Battalion Devonshire and Dorset regiments prepared them for transport, first to Belize City and eventually back to Richmond.

It was the most gruesome aspect of an unusual mission for the soldiers, who found themselves trucking and boating food and other supplies to villages in the hurricane-damaged area of Belize.

Several soldiers were joined by the supervisors and owners of the Peter Hughes Wave Dancer as they sat with the bodies at the end of a small dirt air strip just outside of the Big Creek port, waiting for a rescue plane from Ruritan International to fly the bodies back to Belize City.

After a 45-minute wait, the plane came and took the bodies away.

The owners and supervisors then returned to the Wave Dancer, where they went back in the boat, toting large plastic bags they used to gather up belongings of the victims.

Investigators for the Belize Maritime Authority and various insurance companies began the task yesterday of trying to determine what went wrong Monday night.

"We're just starting with the investigation right now," said Rafael Oliver, spokesman for the maritime authority. "Until we have some facts, everything else is speculation."

The investigation started with the broken ropes used to tie up the Wave Dancer at Big Creek, one of Belize's main ports. But investigators and insurance adjusters climbed aboard boats and also visited several other boats that had been damaged in the hurricane by a runaway derelict tug, the Miss Pamela.

Initial reports had indicated the Miss Pamela, which was beached nearby before the hurricane, also struck a crushing blow to the Wave Dancer when the storm surge hit the region.

Subsequent information indicates that was not the case.

The Miss Pamela "didn't have anything to do with our damage," said Peter A. McLauchlan, a lawyer representing Adams & Reese, the insurance adjusters with Lloyd's of London.

Investigators focused on the damage to the side of the boat apparently caused when the tidal surge of the hurricane lifted the boat too high for its mooring lines. The left rear portion of the boat apparently was torn wide open.

The insurance company's investigation is incomplete and the maritime investigation is just in its early stages, Oliver said. (Times-Dispatch)
`Hurricane haven' turned into hurricane hell as Wave Dancer suddenly capsized

BIG CREEK, Belize, Oct. 12 -- Sunday was perfect - great weather and friends and five unbelievable dives into Black Beauty and the Front Porch, two exotic reef areas off Belize that draw experienced divers from around the world.

They squeezed in as much fun as they could, knowing Monday's skies would be stormy.

Don Trice was one of 30 members of the Richmond Dive Club circling the waters of Belize early this week.

Late Wednesday, he was one of only 13 who returned - one of 13 who tried to rescue fellow dive buddies in the wake of the most intense storm any of them had ever seen. "After the eye of the storm had passed, we all went upstairs and looked for our friends on the other boat. That's when we saw - the Wave Dancer had capsized," he said. "We had to move."

A cool breeze settled over Big Creek on Monday morning when the Belize Aggressor docked. On board, 10 Richmonders and six other divers waited for their 20 friends on the MV Wave Dancer.

At that time, Hurricane Iris was believed to be headed toward Jamaica. The captains of both live-aboard boats knew the storm was just around the corner and decided the bay, about 80 miles south of Belize City, would be the best place to ride it out.

"The captain called it 'Hurricane Haven,'" Trice said.

The wind picked up.

A few Aggressor passengers got off the boat and walked around the dock until the Wave Dancer pulled up at 3 p.m. The boat moored behind the Aggressor, leaving the Wave Dancer more vulnerable if the storm should hit.

The Aggressor passengers returned to their boat and relaxed with James Bond movies until dinner was ready.

That's when reports began trickling in that the storm was, once again, headed toward Belize City. About a dozen other boats docked around them. One sought shelter in the thick mangroves lining the bay.

"No one seemed to really be concerned at that point," Trice said. "We were all happy and not too scared, but it didn't take too long before people started to panic."

The Aggressor divers ate tacos and fajitas, but most people didn't drink alcohol because they wanted to be ready in case of emergency. They prepared a mental list of the supplies they would need.

"The captain was keeping us posted just in case we needed to evacuate," Trice said. "They wanted us to have something packed - shoes, flashlights, dive knives - the bare necessities."

David Mowrer kept order among the divers. The 53-year-old former businessman, a diving instructor, had a plan.

"He told us to wear tennis shoes or boots, not sandals, because if we had to jump out, we needed to have good footing," Trice said. "Otherwise, you're basically barefoot the whole trip."

Meanwhile, the Wave Dancer passengers were eating a later dinner, at about 7 p.m., when debris began whipping through the air.

"We saw the rain coming and we knew it was about to hit," Mowrer said.

Everyone on the Aggressor stood on the deck as trees flattened near them and large, unrecognizable objects flew at them. They had docked next to a banana warehouse, and Mowrer asked workers to move dozens of pallets that were stacked outside, afraid the storm winds would toss them toward the two dive boats.

Passengers from both ships moved to the cabins below.

"It was so dark and you couldn't hear a thing. We were screaming at each other to make sure everybody had a life vest on and a flashlight in hand," Trice said. "From one end of the hall to the other, you couldn't hear a word. We stayed very still."

Some time after 8, the Aggressor divers heard a loud noise and thought it was a large piece of flying debris. It was the Wave Dancer - ripped free from its mooring lines by Iris' winds - smashing into their boat.

Minutes later, the storm lifted the Wave Dancer into the air and smashed it back into the water.

Mowrer was the first to climb to the main deck and survey the scene.

"Dave was so calm. He just came back down below and told everyone we needed to get moving," Trice said.

Mowrer, Trice and several others mobilized quickly.

"We had the Wave Dancer behind us, protecting us, as well as a tug boat and a building," Trice said. "They didn't have a thing."

Mowrer and Rob Salvatori, another Aggressor diver, paddled a dinghy around the bay to pick up Wave Dancer passengers floating in the water. They picked up the three survivors and three victims, including club president and founder Glenn Prillaman.

Mowrer and others tried for about 20 minutes to resuscitate Prillaman. They could not.

Seventeen of the 20 Wave Dancer passengers - all Richmond Dive Club members - were killed. Two of its five crew members also were killed.

The 10 club members on the Aggressor all made it.

"I put on my gear and tried to save as many people as I could," Mowrer said. "I found two crew members, three other people, but they were all bodies. No one was alive." (Times-Dispatch)

Remains of Wave Dancer dead expected soon

BIG CREEK, Belize, Oct. 12 -- The bodies of 17 Richmond Dive Club members killed Monday by Hurricane Iris along the coast of Belize will be sent back to the United States for autopsies as early as today.

Cpl. Fernando Rosado, of the Belize City Police Department, said plans are in the works to charter a private plane to bring the victims back as quickly as possible, though it could be a few days.

"The doctor is looking at the bodies at this moment. A death certificate will be issued for each of the bodies . . . but a real autopsy will not be conducted [in Belize]," he said.

The American embassy in Belize is coordinating with the medical examiner to arrange shipment of the bodies back to the United States, said Christopher Lamora, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Before that happens, the bureau must issue a mortuary certificate to U.S. Customs.

The medical examiner in Belize has preliminarily determined that all the victims aboard the Wave Dancer died by drowning, said Louis Belisle, an undertaker assisting with the victims.

Belisle said he was waiting yesterday afternoon for caskets to arrive. It was unclear who would be sending the caskets, but Belisle said he was working with the U.S. Embassy in Belize.

"We want to send the bodies home as soon as possible," he said.

Belisle, who is assisting the local Belize medical examiner, said the victims are located at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital morgue in Belize City. He did not know how many were crew and how many were divers.

"We are doing as much as we can to clean the bodies and preserve them," he said. "But we will not be conducting any autopsies."

Lynn McNeal, co-owner of The Dive Shop on West Broad Street in Richmond, has been providing support to the families of divers. She said the club has received only sketchy reports about the bodies and when they will return. The latest news was that all the Richmond divers' bodies would be flown back to Virginia on Monday, she said.

Peter Kirkham's niece, Cheryl Lightbound, was one of the storm victims. She lived in Richmond, but Kirkham and the rest of Lightbound's family are in Calgary, Canada.

They have had trouble getting information about when her body will be returned.

"We would like to have the body transferred to Calgary, but I don't know if it's going to go directly or through Richmond or what," he said in a phone interview. "No one is telling us." (Times-Dispatch)

Wave Dancer crew ignored repeated warnings to move guests to land-based shelter

BELIZE CITY, Belize, Oct. 11 -- Hurricane Iris, the worst Belize has seen since 1961, slammed into the coast 80 miles south of Belize City killing 19 people, all of them aboard the Peter Hughes liveaboard, Wave Dancer.

In the wake of the deaths, many are criticizing the crew's decision to stay aboard the vessel despite a powerful and deadly Category 4 hurricane bearing down on Big Creek where Wave Dancer was moored.

Patricia Rose, spokesperson for Peter Hughes Diving in Miami, denied the crew had any choice stating, " we could not put the guests in a hotel. We were forced to keep them on the boat," she added.

But other emergency facilities were available and locals repeatedly warned boat crews to get their passengers off the boats and take shelter in local facilities.

"My home and supermarket are built of masonry and I opened them up to everyone who needed emergency shelter," said Tony Zabaneh, chairman of Independence, a town located just north of Big Creek. "More than 400 people were sheltered here when the hurricane hit us and it hit hard, more like a tornado than a hurricane."

"We made three trips with a van and pickup truck down to Big Creek to warn the people onboard the dive boats," Zabaneh said. "But they refused to get off the boats."

One of the biggest threats from hurricanes is storm surge caused when high winds push powerful walls of water and huge battering waves ahead of the storm. It's the water, not the wind that often destroys moorages, boats and other facilities at the shore's edge.

"Guests on those big dive boats expect to be pampered so my guess is that the crew did not want to subject them to a night with hundreds of locals at the town supermarket," said George Thomas, a charter yacht owner. "But when hurricanes are coming at you, you have to trash the itinerary and get them to the safest place available. The worst possible place to be during a hurricane is on a boat."

According to some reports, a tugboat collided with Wave Dancer but Zabaneh believes that the Wave Dancer crew tied the boat too close to the dock, which put too much stress on the mooring cleats.

"Once those cleats broke loose and the boat spun away from the dock, she was finished," said Zabaneh.


Aerial view of motor vessel, Wave Dancer, a 120-ft U.S.-chartered tourist boat that was destroyed at Big Creek by Hurricane Iris on October 8, 2001, 21 years ago. Reports are that during this Category 4 storm, the boat, which had docked at Big Creek to shelter from the storm, was yanked into the air by the force of the wind and waves, and flipped. All 17 persons aboard perished. The local workers who had refused to remain onboard to shelter from the storm even when their job was threatened, had their lives spared. Photos courtesy Jeremy A. Enriquez

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Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
To H. Brown: Please post the article re the "entire Peter Hughes operation" ( assuming its not already posted on this site). I tried to visit the web site, but it is set up with capture-ware and as a security precaution, I don't enter sites when my security program prompt setup alerts me to capture-ware (a web site that wishes to download an .exe program to my hard drive).
While the capture-ware in some cases may be harmless, I cannot afford to take that risk.
Or if you don't want to post, you can email me privately (just copy and paste it into the body of plain text email) to: [email protected]

I am glad that at least one crew member's family is suing. I hope the others do also. The Peter Hughes Operation is guilty of at best gross negligence at at worst, reckless homicide.

Susan Guberman-Garcia
[email protected]

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email: [email protected]
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
For the fearless, new adventures wait in the wings

Contact Mark at (804) 649-6822 or [email protected]
Adventurers collect on the beautiful bluewater shores of Belize like driftwood.

Some of them stay, finding homes among the shacks that jut haphazardly from the palm-shaded loam.

"It's very easy to live in Belize," said Earl Young, my new Belizean friend. "You can have 11 children and still relax."

But most visitors come and savor their adventures and go home with a tan and Technicolor memories.

My editors sent me to southern Belize to find out why the adventures for 17 members of the Richmond Dive Club and three crew members ended tragically two weeks ago when the Wave Dancer diving boat capsized during Hurricane Iris.

"Be careful," the bosses warned, since my destination had been all but wiped out by 150-mph winds and storm surges.

But careful often doesn't equal adventure.

So, for five days, I did everything my editors warned me not to: I drank the water, picked up hitchhikers, slept under the stars, got blistered by the jungle-like heat, wandered around like a barefoot fool, trusted the local politicians, got tipsy on Beliken beer and dove naked into waters that - according to local lore - harbored some weird man-eating creature.

There's something about Belize, and the people who live there, that invites carefree living.

Certainly, my rental four-wheel drive was in perfect pitch: broken windshield, dead battery, hunt-and-seek steering and delayed-gratification braking.

I soon met Earl, a wonderfully relaxed Belizean who captains the Miss Gayle, a tugboat in the Big Creek port where the Wave Dancer went down.

His explanation of the Wave Dancer's demise is still the one that seems to have the ring of truth.

"I was here [in the wheelhouse of the Miss Gayle] watching. The Wave Dancer was tied up too tight" for the storm surge. "They will find out what I am saying is true," he said.

A later theory from the Wave Dancer's insurance investigators - that a tornado ripped her from the dock - may not stand up to meteorological evidence. The case is bound for the civil courts.

The day after arriving - and after watching the last body being removed from the Wave Dancer - I met Frank Gagliano.

He's a 52-year-old Mel Gibson look-alike who is among the driftwoodlike adventurers who have adopted Belize as their home.

Before the hurricane, Frank had led a small flock of boat owners to Big Creek from their homes in Placencia, a nearby peninsula.

They had wisely tied their sailboats to the flexible but tough-as-iron mangrove trees on either side of a narrow, horseshoelike channel 200 yards or so upriver from the port's dock where the Wave Dancer had been berthed.

It was the perfect place to weather a hurricane, Frank said. At least until a runaway derelict tugboat rammed through the narrow channel where the sailboats had been moored, throwing them up into mangroves during the height of the storm.

Frank had been tossed into the water at the same time as those aboard the Wave Dancer.

It had to have been the strangest night ever in this normally silken waterway.

Frank recalled hanging onto a line, the force of the wind flapping him like a flag above the froth. The derelict tug's heavy, rusted doors slammed open and shut with sewing machinelike speed as she ghosted past in the black maelstrom.

After hearing his story, I climbed aboard Frank's skiff and we motored out to his 52-foot ketch, the Talisman. She's a beauty, even with her snapped main mast.

There I got to know his friends and fellow boaters from Placencia: Peter Fox, a retired businessman from the states; James Axford, a retired London banker; and Nancy, James' delightful Canadian girlfriend.

Frank is a gourmet cook, and the meals he shared with us aboard the Talisman were stunning.

I had to ask why this expert cook and adventurer didn't have a wife or girlfriend.

"I had a girlfriend for 20 years," Frank explained. They had spent time in Belize and then 10 years in the mountains of Montana. They had gone back to Belize to buy and outfit the Talisman for charters, but his girlfriend hungered for the mountains and horses she had left behind.

She eventually went back for a visit. The visit dragged on. She finally called and asked if it was OK if she stayed, Frank recalled wistfully.

That must've hurt letting go like that, I offered as the sun went down.

"You know that intense feeling when you first fall in love?" Frank asked. "What better gift can you give someone than a chance to feel that again?"

When I asked Frank if he was worried about his home on Placencia, he said it had weathered every hurricane in the past.

"The termites hold it together," he said jokingly.

I thought about the hunger for adventure as I settled down to sleep on the deck of the Talisman. The sky was filled with stars, and the waters of Big Creek caressed the boat's hull with the softness of a grandmother's kiss.

I could see the upturned hull of the Wave Dancer, just a stone's throw away.

The hunger for adventure can mean losing someone you love - or perhaps your life.

The next morning we mapped out plans to refloat Peter's motorboat, the Mariposa, and to remove the snapped mast from Miss Lou, James' and Nancy's 40-foot sailboat.

Suddenly, one of the sleek local skiffs skimmed over the water and pulled alongside the Talisman.

"It's Bertie!" Nancy cried happily.

Bertie Popper, a native Belizean, had motored the two miles from Placencia to see what had become of his friends.

"How is Placencia?" Frank asked.

"Oh, Frankie, it's almost gone," Bertie said, detailing all the damage to the town and how several of their friends lost their homes and their businesses. But Peter's beachfront home had fared well, he said.

Frank's place was gone.

"There's nothing there," Bertie said.

It seemed like Frank hadn't heard. There was no visible reaction.

After patching the Mariposa and de-masting the Miss Lou, we dove off the dock to beat the heat, joined by the British soldiers helping with the hurricane-relief effort.

The next day, Bertie came back and took us to Placencia. Frank's place was indeed gone. All he could find were a few hand tools and some pots and pans.

We trekked north, gathering stories from locals about their losses and plans as we went. There were hugs and laughter all around.

I met 20-year-old Susan, a lively Belizean who usually served as Frank's first mate during charter trips.

More than a few people seemed to be more hurt by the devastation to the peninsula's palm trees than by the loss of their homes.

"We're alive, that's all that matters," a local named Lill told me.

Frank, James and Nancy began saying their good-byes to their friends on Placencia.

Since they had lost everything, Frank suggested they drift their boats down to Guatemala, where the living and boat repairs are cheaper.

James and Nancy, ever the wanderers, readily agreed.

Susan beamed when Frank asked her if she wanted to go. "He's like my father," she said proudly.

"It will be like another adventure," Frank promised his fellow travelers.

I found myself wishing I could join them.

It's tough to say right now exactly why the Wave Dancer flipped in Big Creek, Belize, on Oct. 8.

But it's clear what drew the Richmond divers there: adventure.

"Don't wait to do what you want," Richmond Dive Club member Cheryl Lightbound told a friend shortly before her death, "because any day it could be over."

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 2
OP Offline
The material posted above (by Cap'n Marty) are merely recent news stories from other sources reprinted at Cyberdiver. The new and original stuff the Cyberdiver team has put together is under "Special Reports, including a timeline of events, an editorial and a Forum on what happened. This is all avaialable at:

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
Here's a particularly damning report, though it fails to ask one important question: Does the duty of a US corporate-owned party boat operating in Belize to preserve the lives of its Belizean crew take precedence over the need for "cooking and cleaning for the guests?"
And of course, it also fails to ask another question: Would you expect the corporate owner to take a bit of time from his meetings with his insurers and lawyers and his CYA activities to express his apologies and sympathy to the families of the dead crew? I guess not...

The article is from

On Saturday, October 6, the National Hurricane Center in Miami issued frequent warnings that Hurricane Iris was strengthening and moving west towards Belize, yet the Peter Hughes Diving Inc. Wave Dancer departed with 20 Richmond Dive Club members and eight crew on what was supposed to be a fun-filled, holiday dive trip exploring Belize's renowned offshore reefs.

Just over 48 hours later, the holiday came to an abrupt and tragic end when the Category 4 hurricane, the most powerful of the season, slammed into Wave Dancer and capsized the converted crew boat with 230 km/hr winds and storm surge 18 feet above normal tide level. Twenty people died including 17 Richmond Dive Club members and three crew.

The Wave Dancer disaster raises disturbing questions about how Peter Hughes Diving Inc (and the Aggressor Fleet) conduct off-shore dive trips in regions that are prone to severe weather disturbances. Peter Hughes comments on company policy (regarding payments) are less than reassuring: "Our policy is intended to be fair to our guests, and yet prevent the loss of income to our business." Perhaps that explains why Wave Dancer (and the Belize Aggressor) left port on Saturday and remained in the holiday mode while the rest of the tourist industry in Belize was evacuating guests inland to emergency shelters.

There are many other disturbing questions, all of which Peter Hughes refuses to answer. Did the head office, which was in constant contact with the Wave Dancer captain, make all of the critically important decisions along the way? Why did head office personnel state that Wave Dancer went south to Big Creek because they thought the hurricane was headed north when National Hurricane Center tracking models predicted west to southwest movement as early as Sunday? Why didn't Wave Dancer pull the hook on Sunday and return to Belize City where evacuation procedures were under way? Why did Wave Dancer wait until Monday morning to leave and why did they go south to Big Creek?

Susan Guberman-Garcia
[email protected]

Why, after making all of the wrong decisions and placing the vessel and customers directly in the path of an oncoming Category 4 hurricane, did they ignore local officials who warned boat personnel to move everyone ashore to emergency shelters? Why did the boat captain threaten to fire crew who wanted to go ashore to emergency shelters? Why were the guests casually dining and drinking just before the hurricane slammed into Big Creek? Why, after 20 people were killed aboard Wave Dancer, did Wayne Hasson of the Aggressor Fleet insist that liveaboards are safer than concrete emergency shelters in Category 4 hurricanes?

For the answers to these questions and more, dive into CDNN Wave Dancer Special Report, the definitive source of accurate, authoritative and comprehensive news reports covering the Wave Dancer disaster and related safety issues that will help you select the safest available live-aboard dive vessels.

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email: [email protected]
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 70
Who the world made susangg the expert with more knowledge than two experienced and licensed Captains? She is completely out to lunch in my opinion as a captainand owner of a 60 ft. yacht. Her monday morning quarterbacking is not only just plain wrong, it is also extremely hurtful to all those who are suffering.
When I read that Pter Hughes is sitting on a banana crate with his arms wrapped around his knees, I do not get the mental image of a cold hearted, ruthless, money hungry corporate cretin that she would have everyone believe. For her to accuse anyone of "reckless murder" is rediculous to the extreme. These people did the best they could under the circustances known to them at the time. I am sure that any of them would do anything if they could have it to do over again.
I have been a Captain and a lawyer for many years. Susan gee gee is very wrong when she sputters her vitriolic nonsense and claims that anyone in the decision chain is guilty of reckless murder.
Hopefully she will stay in California and use her baseless logic to attack some other corporate boogyman. No wonder people hate lawyers.

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 52
This clip comes from the Times-Despatch, written by Paige Aiken.

The suit alleges that Peter Hughes, owner of Peter Hughes Diving Inc. and the Wave Dancer, as well as Capt. Philip Martin "arrogantly and illegally ignored" government orders to evacuate the boat as Iris blew into Belize, causing the deaths of 17 divers and three crew members. Hughes' company is based in Miami.

Hughes, contacted yesterday afternoon by telephone, said he had not heard about the lawsuit. He spent several days after the accident in Belize with families of dead crew members, he said. One of those families was the Hall family.

"I just had to visit the families of my deceased crew members, just to bring some comfort to them," he said. "At this time, I'm breathless, I'm shocked that anyone filed a lawsuit. I cannot comfortably comment at this time - I'm just disappointed and obviously upset. I'm at a loss for words."

The following is an excerpt from "Gazza" on Gazza previously worked as a captain with the Peter Hughes company and is still in contact with several other ex-Hughes employees, including Eloisa's sister who also worked for Peter Hughes.

Ref: Article by PAIGE AKIN..If this article is printing fact with reference to Peter Hughes,then I find it not only UNBELIEVABLE but in EXTREMELY POOR TASTE, to try to tell the world what a nice person you are....going to Belize to spend time with the families of your two dead crew members in order to bring them some comfort.....A BARE FACED LIE that anyone who had any human compassion at all would be ashamed of. The fact of the matter is,neither family was sent condolences, neither girl recieved flowers for their funerals from Peter Hughes. And when he did finally show his face it was with his land agent and belizian registry investigator.

My own info:
A friend of Eloisa's who has present and past ties with the Aggressor and Wave Dancer
verified that no one from the Wave Dancer paid their last respects to Eloisa except Bart Stanley, the Belizean crewman who had a near death experience next to Eloisa.

Does that sound like a caring sharing Peter to you? I can see the tears, but I wonder for whom they are.

****If you want to read the full texts of the quotes I posted here, go to the message board of and visit the heading " Suit filed in dive club boat tragedy."

[This message has been edited by belizeanblue (edited 10-29-2001).]

Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 17
SBW Offline
I am with you.....kailani

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 97
SueGG wrote:

~There are many other disturbing questions, all of which Peter Hughes refuses to answer. Did the head office, which was in constant contact with the Wave Dancer captain, make all of the critically important decisions along the way?

*** I assume they leave it to the captain's wits.

Why did head office personnel state that Wave Dancer went south to Big Creek because they thought the hurricane was headed north when National Hurricane Center tracking models predicted west to southwest movement as early as Sunday?

***Wrong. I have seen this gloss-over of facts passed off as given too many times to not respond. I think if you go back to the on-record, written archive of the storm you will find that on Sunday the track was still approximate. The Sunday NHC prediction was for Chetumal and the "Mexico/Belize coast". This would back sheltering at Big Creek with the then steady at 85mph for 24 hours hurricane. (A holding minimal hurricane, not a monster bearing down) Keith weakened considerably at landfall last year, maybe that was still in his memory -along with Chantal.
Weather climatology shows a tendency for northward recurve of storms in this area at this time of the season. Mitch and Iris went against the norm. On Saturday night our weatherman was on TV showing a projected strike on Cancun.

~Why didn't Wave Dancer pull the hook on Sunday and return to Belize City where evacuation procedures were under way?

*** I can only speculate he was counting on Big Creek and working for his clients to avoid forfeiture.

~Why did Wave Dancer wait until Monday morning to leave and why did they go south to Big Creek?

*** I would guess Big Creek was the original plan and they stuck to it. Details are important. Iris possessed an unusually narrow hurricane core of only 30 miles. This is avoidable by an experienced seaman. She did so on Sunday when she was only 85mph. To reduce this to "a big bad hurricane is coming" reduces the captain's finer knowledge and judgment to an insultingly overgeneralized level. My guess is he wanted to avoid a mistaken northward or southward run (Fanthome) so the hurricane hole at Big Creek was with the odds on such a small storm.

~Why, after making all of the wrong decisions and placing the vessel and customers directly in the path of an oncoming Category 4 hurricane, did they ignore local officials who warned boat personnel to move everyone ashore to emergency shelters?

*** More gloss. Missing is the fact that Zabenah warned only Aggressor because WD had not arrived in port yet. There is no evidence that WD was relayed the request to offload. Iris went from 85mph to 140mph in 10 hours monday morning. There is no way he could have predicted that this slow to get going storm would do that. NHC was only mildly hinting at it, and their landfall intensity estimate was only 90mph late Sunday night.
I just read an article here in south Florida about a barrier island family caught in category 4 Donna in 1960. After deciding that their house was disintegrating the entire family evacuated to their small sailboat. They rode the storm out and survived. Inspecting their destroyed house the next day they noticed the water mark from surge was 18 feet up their cistern. If they stayed in the house they would have all drowned. Aboard-ship storm riding is hardly the "reckless negligence" some unfamiliar outsiders might suggest. Additionally, a storm shelter lost its roof during Iris with people inside and surge. Meanwhile, Aggressor rode out the storm nearby.

~Why did the boat captain threaten to fire crew who wanted to go ashore to emergency shelters?

*** I assume the captain needed to maintain discipline in a crisis? Aggressor?

~Why were the guests casually dining and drinking just before the hurricane slammed into Big Creek?

*** This is where we agree. I can't imagine what the captain was doing? Was he looking at radar even the most amateur weather buff has access to? I saw accurate warnings on chat boards hours before impact. What was he looking at and what decisions did he make from it? He was stuck with Big Creek at that point. It was going to hit whether the passengers were all lashed to the decks or relaxed to maintain calm. Hard call at best.

~Why, after 20 people were killed aboard Wave Dancer, did Wayne Hasson of the Aggressor Fleet insist that liveaboards are safer than concrete emergency shelters in Category 4 hurricanes?

*** See "Donna" above...

~For the answers to these questions and more, dive into CDNN Wave Dancer Special Report, the definitive source of accurate, authoritative and comprehensive news reports covering the Wave Dancer disaster and related safety issues that will help you select the safest available live-aboard dive vessels.

*** I found their article just as loose and free with the facts. To me, it appears incriminating via the quickest "get the big corporate bad guys" route minus the accuracy. They did not post my similar response I submitted over there. Sometimes the after-storm of blame-placing is more fearsome than the original...

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