Two US nationals were brought into safe harbour by members of the Belize Coast Guard (BCG) last night. The duo was in the Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve at around eight thirty last night when they sent out a distress signal. According to Lieutenant Gregory Soberanis, Fleet Commander for the BCG, a vessel from the Hunting Caye Forward Operating Base was deployed to the area immediately where they found the Shambella, a 40-foot sailboat, grounded on the reef.
Lt. Gregory Soberanis – Fleet Commander BCG: “At approximately 8:30 pm last night the operation center here at our headquarters received a call from the joint intelligence operation center in Ladyville that a distress signal was activated from a signal on board a forty-foot vessel Shambala in the area of Hunting Key. We immediately got in contact with our commander from Hunting Key, gave her the coordinates and upon arriving at that location informed us that the vessel had run a ground on the reef. There were two persons on board, the vessel at the time was removed and taken to Hunting Key Forward Operating Base secured where the two individuals are currently detained pending an investigation and assessment being conducted by the Department of the Environment.In incidents like these there is an interagency approach in order to determine/ ascertain the level of damage to the reef and subsequent actions to be taken. DOE is the lead agency for groundings in Belize. Usually, Coast Guard would be the first responders for groundings at sea. Thereafter we work closely with the Department of the Environment, the Belize Port Authority and Fisheries in order to determine a holistic assessment of the damages that may have been done to the reef so that is ongoing at this time. Once that is done then the Department of the Environment will then determine what charges if any will be levied against these individuals. Until such time the protocol is that because they are foreign nationals our embassies are informed of the situation and we also informed our ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well.”
Jose Sanchez: “What are the nationalities or names of these individuals and were they in any physical danger when you found them?”
Lt. Gregory Soberanis – Fleet Commander BCG: “There was no physical danger at the time of the rescue. They were two US Nationals so the US Embassy has been informed. They were taken to our forward operating base where of course they will be accommodated until the investigation and assessment are conducted.”
The boat was towed off the reef to prevent further damage and an investigation has been launched into the incident, particularly as it relates to the extent of damages done to the reef. The couple was enroute to Rio Dulce in Guatemala from Cuba. They are currently detained pending the outcome of the investigation.