Elton Bennett

The Belize Coastguard was also involved in the rescue of the visitors. The Unit was called out on two incidents at sea today. In the first, four persons were rescued and brought safely to shore. On the second, however, the Italian and US nationals perished from drowning. In the view of the acting Commandant, however, the sea conditions may not have had a bearing on the incident and he told News Five that the guide and the Tsumani Tour operator are being questioned.

Commander Elton Bennett, Acting Commandant, Belize Coastguard

"There are two cases; just off the coast of Caye Caulker we got information that a vessel was capsized just about three miles north of Caye Caulker; we fortunately had a patrol in Caye Caulker so we were able to deploy within reasonable time. Upon reaching that location we found the vessel capsized; there were four persons on board; two Belizeans and two Americans. We were able to rescue those personnel and recover their vessels. We took them into Caye Caulker. Just before mid-day we received information involving seven tourists. We responded to the Hol Chan Marine Area between San Pedro and Caye Caulker, where we were informed that one person was missing and a search commenced right away along with the rangers and other vessels in the area, one body was recovered just after twelve and just after half hour ago, we received information that a second body was recovered. So all were accounted for; five persons were rescued and two unfortunately appeared to have drowned during that incident."

Andrea Polanco

"What exactly happened? Did their vessels capsize? Were they snorkeling for these two persons to go missing?"

Commander Elton Bennett

"They were snorkeling and outside of the vessel doing snorkeling in the area. The sea state was moderate to rough and the wave height was somewhere between three to five feet so we don't believe that the rough sea state really had an impact on the incident itself. So we are looking at, I know that the tour-guide is in question along with the tour company. So we are looking at all the possibilities and try to investigate the incident as much as possible."

Andrea Polanco

"So at this time, is there any additional information that the Coast Guard would like to issue in terms of snorkeling in that area or with respect to the weather and especially with Easter coming up because we know a lot of people will be in the waters?"

Commander Elton Bennett

"Yeah, traditionally at this time of the year it is very popular for maritime and aquatic activities; diving, snorkeling, sailing; just maritime recreational boating and we would like to remind the general public to be cautious when deploying; ensure that you wear your life jacket, ensure that your vessel is able to communicate to mainland, just being cautious in the water alone is very important for each individual."

The five survivors were transported back to San Pedro and the two bodies were taken to the San Pedro Poly Clinic.

Channel 5