Word went out hard and fast at dawn on Saturday morning that a plane had landed in the middle of the Southern Highway. Huge news - and it got even bigger as the second report was that police were implicated in offloading the plane.
Well it gets no bigger than that - and Jules Vasquez went south on Saturday to look for answers - he built his story with help from our friends at PG TV who were the first media to arrive on the scene:….
Jules Vasquez Reporting
This is the Twin Engine Beechcraft King Air 200 where it was found in the middle of the Southern Highway at mile 56 early on Saturday morning.
It landed in an unpopulated area on a straight stretch of road sometime after midnight on Friday.
This is known as the Bladden area - about 7 miles away from the nearest village which is Bladden.
Our information says villagers heard the aircraft circling the area after midnight and alerted police - who called in The Belize Special Assignment Group (B-SAG) - a US funded and trained unit in the police department.
The B-SAG Team found the plane empty - inside the cabin - these straps secured the drug cargo - but the drugs were gone. The luggage compartment had a few discarded wrappers and cans of red bull.
And why was the plane left there? This damaged wing suggests one plausible cause - apparently it clipped a pine tree on the landing.
These makeshift landing lights were found on the road powered by a car battery.
And there was a plentiful supply of plastic fuel containers here at the scene and many more hidden in the bushes three and a half miles down the road between miles 59 and 60.
And while B-SAG guarded the plane at mile 56, twenty-one miles north - Independence police intercepted a white van occupied by 4 veteran police officers and one customs officer - all believed to have participated in landing and offloading the plane. They had muddy boots and wet Anti Drug Unit uniforms.
Police kept searching and at around 5:00 in the evening, they went to mile 65 - 10 miles from where the plane landed - near the Genus Saw Mill, and about a ¼ mile in they found 80 Bales of COCAINE and 17 loose packs of suspected Cocaine - which we estimate to weigh about two thousand kilos - a street value of 38 million us dollars - again unofficial estimates.
It's a tremendous job of detection by police and just processing the crime scene at mile 56 took extraordinarily long blocking off the only artery to the south for almost 12 hours - causing an especially long queue of traffic to be stalled on the road for hours.
Indeed, it is not every day that a plane gets stuck in the middle of the highway - but those in the area did not want to hear that - they were headed to the Battle Of The Drums in PG - and the delay was driving them crazy.
Richard Logan, Traveler
"I am out here since 6 this morning."
"So you were going to the Battle Of The Drums?"
Richard Logan, Traveler
"Yes but because of this plane they have blocked all the traffic. But the drugs were moved a long time ago."
Tomas Pop, Bus driver
"People want to reach to their destination, most of them are going to Puerto Barrios and the others are going home, I have children in the bus that are sick and I don't really like what is taking place right now."
"So what's the condition of your passengers?"
Tomas Pop, Bus driver
"There are almost like 50 people inside the bus right now. They are hungry and thirsty and there is no water. I don't know why they don't want the people to cross so that they can reach their homes. They say that nothing can pass."
Finally at 12:45 pm - police started towing the plane down the road - slowly, slowly the plane was pulled into position and hauled away .
It was parked neatly on the roadside a mile away - an off incongruous site at the entrance to the Bladden reserve - this plush luxury jet - unclaimed, its pilot unaccounted for, and its full story untold…
And while the cocaine is being officially weighed at this hour - the more pressing matter is the four policemen and one customs officer who are being implicated for involvement.
As we noted they were intercepted in a van near the San Juan bus stop - that is 21 miles from where the plane landed.
The van was driven by 33 year old Corporal Renel Grant - who is the GG's former driver, along with the GG's current driver, 39 year Corporal Nelson Middleton as well as 38 year old Sergeant Lawrence Humes and 42 year old Sergeant Jacinto Roches attached to the Internal Affairs Desk Belmopan and 36 year old Harold Usher a Boatman at Customs Department.
All of them were detained and taken to the Independence Police Station along with the van. The van was searched and that turned up several battle dress uniforms with anti drug unit markings, several items of wet clothing , 2 car batteries - the same kind that was powering the landing lights on the highway, muddy jungle boots and tennis, and a licensed 9illimter pistol for Harold Usher. They were charged this morning for a single ammunition offence - but we understand it that is preliminary - and the single charge had to be brought to keep them detained while the DPP prepares other charges.
One Corporal Vidal Cacun from the Independence police station has also been charged for a firearm offence and he is also being investigated in connection with the drug ring.
Two other police officers attached to the Independence formation have also been suspended - pending investigation into their possible involvement.
So 8 lawmen - 7 of them police - are implicated; six of that eight have been preliminarily charged and are pending many more charges which are being prepared by the DPP.
This didn't make it into the story, but three miles formt he landing site, police also found a white container truck with twenty three 17-gallon plastic containers, and 3 tanks with about 500 gallons of aviation fuel and 3 fuel pumps. 12 pine logs which had been used to block the road were also stowed in the area.
We stress the weight we calculate of two thousand kilos - is based on the conventional packaging of 25 kilos per bail which would derive two thousand kilos - but that figure is unofficial. Police are still weighing the drugs at this hour - so no official figure is known at this time. A kilo generally sells for upwards of twenty thousand Belize dollars on the streets but the American price is about 18 thousand US dollars per kilo.
One more note, this King Air 200 - which has been moved from the highway and secured by police - is identical to one that landed and was abandoned on the northern highway two years ago. That one culminated in a shootout with the BDF but no one was arrested. In this case, the pilot is believed to have fled. There is also another widely circulated but unsupported theory that in this case there were two planes and one of them did take off…