Tourists die during snorkeling trip to Hol Chan
There is tragic news tonight out of the island of Caye Caulker where a snorkeling trip ended terribly for two visitors. A group of seven men and women, vacationing in Belize, set out on an expedition, in a vessel named Cyclone led by Tsunami Tours of Caye Caulker this morning. As they snorkeled near the channel, the group became separated when strong waves began drifting them farther out to the reef. Five of them were later rescued by coastguard personnel dispatched to the area; however, American national Roger Burgess and Zyihe Florencia believed to be of Italian nationality, were not as fortunate. The bodies of the two tourists were recovered near the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, off the coast of Ambergris Caye shortly after midday today. The survivors arrived before one o’clock at the San Pedro Polyclinic along with a ranger stationed at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Several hours later, the bodies were taken by a private charter to San Pedro Town where they were pronounced dead on arrival. This afternoon they were transferred by skiff to Belize City by the San Pedro police News Five spoke with Corporal Sharmane Young who is heading the investigation.
Sharmane Young, Corporal, Tourism Police Unit
“About twelve midday I received a call from the Tourism Police officer who was conducting patrol along with the Hol Chan personnel at the Hol Chan [Marine Reserve] where they stated that they had a total of five persons at sea, you know, apparently they were about to drown over at the blue. As a result of that, the information received was that it was a total of seven persons who went snorkeling with Tsunami’s Tours and of that seven we have five rescued and we have two [who] passed away.”
“In terms of the operation that is being conducted who is leading this mission?”
“Myself, as the person in charge of the Tourism Police [Unit] for Caye Caulker and San Pedro, and working along with the officer in charge of San Pedro; it’s going to be both of us working along on this investigation.”
“Okay, my understanding is that a coastguard team was also dispatched to the area.”
“Yes, that’s true. We have contacted the officer in charge of the coastguard who has assisted us and both bodies, the first body was recovered at 12:30 and the other one was recovered [sometime later]. The first body that was recovered was a female French national and the other person was an American national by the name of Roger Burgess.”
“What is the preliminary investigation saying at this point? Was it mechanical failure of some sort, equipment failure? What were the rescued tourists saying?”
“No. What happened is that these people were already in the water snorkeling at Hol Chan and apparently the current, they were swimming to the blue and the current was too strong and they started drifting away.”
The five surviving visitors have been identified as American nationals fifty-five year old Rebecca Burger and seventeen year old Zach Burger, Canadian nationals twenty-five old Lawrence Tastet and twenty- year-old Yanik Doyon and Italian national fifty-nine year old David Florencia.