Channel 7's coverage...diving accident/incident
off Placencia Peninsula, Belize.
4 Tourists Lost At Sea: 3 Survive; 1 Dead
Belize is one of the world's premier diving
attraction but tonight it is facing the greatest
diving disaster this country has seen. Tonight
all we know is that four American tourists are
missing in Belize's southern seas and they have
not been seen for over 48 hours. he four tourists
two male and two females were part of a group of
10 who left Placencia on Saturday morning on
rough seas for a snorkeling and diving tour with
Advanced Diving Tours. So far only the six
snorkelers and the two guides have returned.
7NEWS joined the searched above Placencia today
and Keith Swift has the story.
Keith Swift Reporting, [[email protected]
Somewhere in this vast expanse of the Caribbean
Sea four tourists are stranded. BDF Defender
aircrafts are leading the aerial search in the
seas off of the Placencia lagoon. For a total of
14 hours yesterday, Major Ganey Dortch flew over
miles upon miles of open sea at an altitude of
only 500 feet looking for any sign of the missing
divers. He found none and today he was back on
Major Ganey Dortch, BDF Pilot
"The Defender was dispatched to the area to
conduct a search and rescue and since then we
have done four missions, each approximately
between three and four hours. What we did was an
expanded search. Based on the currents we
established a datum and the datum is
approximately five miles east from Silk Caye from
which a search was conducted south and subsequent
to that we have been searching and concentrating
our efforts from five miles east of Silk Caye to
approximately forty miles north and then
southwest towards the Honduran coast."
See any signs of life out there?
Major Ganey Dortch,
Coordinating the search on the ground is
Placencia dive expert Brian Young. He turned down
taking the group out diving on Saturday but is
now an integral part of the search.
Brian Young, Dive Master
"Right now from Placencia we have maybe a minimum
of six boats out searching right now and I'm
assisting the BDF right now with their search.
We're about to go up on a next search. These guys
have been flying from yesterday, probably putting
in over ten hours yesterday."
Major Ganey Dortch,
"Normally we will hope for three days but to be
very honest with you, one can sustain life for
seven days without food if they have access to
water. From what we have been told, with the
condition of the divers where they have wet
suits, they can actually survive in this type of
environment for approximately three to seven
That is the hope Harp Scott is clinging to. He
came to Placencia with his close friend
37-year-old nurse Nancy Masters a week ago. They
both went on the dive trip but only he returned.
Nancy is still missing.
Harp Scott, Friend is Missing
"On Saturday we went out on a snorkeling and
scuba diving trip with Advanced Diving and I
snorkeled and Nancy scuba dived. Apparently the
boat lost power and was drifting at sea and the
divers, they don't know where the divers are at
this point. Its two days now and from what we've
heard from the dive master, who they recovered
from Glover's Reef, he said they dove into the
water at some point when they could still see
Silk Caye and they tried to swim to shore."
Is Nancy an experienced diver?
"Yes she had her advanced diving certificate. She
had been diving in Caye Caulker before and she
was an experienced swimmer and the other three
divers were as well."
We know you were supposed to leave today but you
are staying. When will you give up?
"I am not sure."
But one couple leaving is Randall Schriener and
Rebecca Hey, Survivor
"Nancy and Harp were with us on Friday when we
went to Monkey River so we got to know them on
Friday and Harp doesn't know what to do, he has
just been pacing the dock. Even if we thought
that they would have picked them up on Saturday
or Sunday just knowing how much trauma that is
and now I don't they are going to pick them up at
We met them at the Phillip Goldson Airport on
their way back to Alaska.
"The six of us snorkelers got off with Vance onto
Silk Caye and the four divers stayed on the boat
and they went off to do their dive. We were
snorkeling for an hour just having fun and Vance
was watching the boat with the binoculars and
after a little bit he started to say he was
getting nervous because they hadn't gotten off
the boat and they should be coming back in, they
should be done with their diving, they're just
sitting in the boat and the canopy is down, and
he was wondering if they were having engine
That is when guide leader Vance Cabral jumped in
the sea and went looking for the group of divers
- leaving his group abandoned on Little Water
"It got dark and the other four were standing
around smoking and Randall and I were more
concerned about getting coconuts and fluid and I
was more concerned about setting up a shelter for
the wind because I figured we were spending the
night there. And we started watching the lights
off the distance and about an hour and a half
after sunset we saw a light coming out from
Little Water Caye towards our island and they
landed it was Vance and one of the rangers.
Randall and Andrew were signaling with the
flashes on their cameras to let them know where
we were. So it was exciting when the boat got
there because I didn't want to spend the night
After that rescue two nights ago - the second
dive master Henry Mark Tucker turned up last
night. He surfaced on Glover's Reef and told
police that when the boat began experiencing
engine trouble - they all jumped out of the boat.
Unfortunately, so far only he has made it safety.
"The boat is still out there. According to Mr.
Tucker the other four persons, when the boat was
drifting between 11 and 12 o'clock on Saturday,
he tried to keep them on the boat but they didn't
want to stay. Mr. Tucker's words is that the four
of them ganged today and decided they could make
it to Silk Caye and Mr. Tucker just learnt last
night when he called in that we haven't found
those four people. He has no idea why they
couldn't make that short distance swim.
Being a diver myself and a instructor I am
optimistic that these people are out there, still
alive, still floating. They just probably
misjudged the distance they had to swim in and
couldn't make it because it was a very strong
southwesterly wind that day so it probably took
them out to see. But I am optimistic about it, I
still believe they are out there."
As a diver yourself, do you think they should
have gone out there given the weather conditions?
"I don't want to speculate on anything right now.
Those are up to the authorities."
Hey says in hindsight maybe they should have
obeyed the small craft warnings.
"We have fault because all the other dive shops
didn't want to go out on Saturday and apparently
there was a small craft warning. But we wanted to
go and Advance Diving was willing to take us and
so we decided to go even though the last place we
checked said it was to rough. But we know that
things happen but we're upset knowing there was
no radio and no backup engine on the boat we went
on. And we know now that is something we will
never do again, just go out with somebody who
doesn't have backup."
"I think things would have happened very
differently if the boat had been operational and
I also think if they had an anchor they would
have been fine. At no point did I feel unsafe on
the way out and I didn't feel unsafe while I was
on the island and its unfortunate that they
drifted further than would have without the
weather conditions but I don't think it was a bad
What is your hope right now?
"That the divers are rescued today."
And if not?
"I'll be really upset."
Uncertainty from one survivor to a certainty from
"Its definitely something we're going to remember
forever. It's not something we can forget about.
I wouldn't use it as a deterrent to anybody to
deter them from coming here. The trip was
wonderful except for our friends who are still
And while we know they are somewhere in miles of
sea - the questions tonight are where and after
more than 48 hours - in what condition might they
be? The answer to those chilling questions lie
somewhere out here.
JUST IN: Word just in to 7NEWS from Placencia is
that about 4 pm a BDF aerial search team located
one of the missing divers 23.5 miles southeast of
Glover's Reef. They then spotted a second body
floating and later they spotted two more
survivors. Three of the divers survived and one
died (male). About an hour and a half later a
search boat responded and transferred the three
survivors and the casualty to the hospital.