All this week, the headlines have been dominated by terrible tragedies - a missing teen murdered, a man who allegedly killed his parents, a husband killed in front of his wife and child, and the list goes on.
Well tonight, we start the newscast with a bright spot. The Belize Coast Guard saved the lives of 5 males: 4 adults and a 10-year-old boy who were stranded at sea early this morning.
They went on an ill advised fishing trip off the coast of Belize City late last night, but sometime after 2 this morning, they encountered some sort of mishap somewhere between Water Caye and Goff Caye.
It is unclear at this time what happened to the boat they were in, but it reportedly began taking on water, until eventually, all 5 males ended up thrown into the rough waters of the Caribbean Sea. You'll know that the cold front currently makes taking a morning shower without warm water a challenge. So imagine being stranded in the sea for over 7 hours, and you'll have an idea of what these men endured.
Fortunately, the Coast Guard came to their rescue, and 7News was there at around midday when they were brought back to the Belize City mainland. Daniel Ortiz has that story:
Just before midday today, worried family members gathered at the pier of the Coast Guard's Headquarters.
They were there to greet their loved ones, 4 men and a 10-year-old boy, who were lost in the freezing, rough sea for over 7 hours this morning.
It could have been a day filled with tragedy, but fortunately, the Coast Guard rescued all 5 males and brought them home safe.
"We understand that one of the missing persons was found in the water, and not on a vessel."
Lt. Roque Canul - Operations Officer, Belize Coast Guard "All of them were found in the water. I must say it is a huge relief for us."
Martin Pariente - Uncle of Charles Pariente "We always hear of people getting lost at sea, and getting killed. It doesn't hit you that hard because of the situation Belize is in right now. But, knowing that your nephew was not involved in anything, he was just out fishing. Then, I heard he went missing. Looking at my mom, looking at my sister, who is his mom, the devastation they were going through, it's very difficult."
The rapid response of the Coast Guard ensured that they were rescued. But, they didn't go on a dangerous mission. This outing was supposed to be a leisurely fishing trip, which somehow turned into an ordeal none of these men could have foreseen.
Audberto Pariente - Uncle of Charles Pariente "I understand, there were 5 persons who left to go fishing, and that is about all I knew until this morning when we got the message."
Lt. Roque Canul - Operations Officer, Belize Coast Guard "Around 2:30 this morning, we received a distress call, whereby we were informed that a boat had apparently experienced distress in the sea, in the area between Water Caye and Goff Caye. The information is that the boat was taking in water. We immediately deployed our standby crew to the area, and from there on, we commenced searches."
"What was of concern was the area because the area given is a big area. It's an area between Goff Caye and Water Caye. You're talking approximately 3-4 miles in width."
The Coast Guard's concerns about locating them in time were short-lived, and the families of these men can now go back to enjoying their Christmas holidays, instead of spending these next few days worrying about their fates on an unforgiving sea:
Reporter "It must be a huge relief."
Audberto Pariente - Uncle of Charles Pariente "Definitely, overwhelming."
The relatives and friends of victims have identified them to us as Christopher Pariente, his friend, Christopher Zheng, Michael Welch Jr., aka "Fire", his 10-year-old son, and a man known as "Chabo". They were all taken to the KHMH for medical check-ups.
Early Morning Distress Call, 5 Fishermen Rescued at Sea
Five persons were successfully returned to shore at the Coast Guard Headquarters this afternoon. The group, including a little boy, was stranded at sea when the vessel they were out fishing in began taking in water and capsized somewhere between Water Caye and Goff‘s Caye. It was a traumatic experience, drifting out at sea in the dead of night. A distress call to the coast guard, led to the location of the boaters sometime thereafter during a search and rescue operation. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was at the coastguard pier when they were brought in.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The emotional reunion of several families with their loved ones at midday, following a night of intense fear that five persons, including a ten-year-old minor, were lost at sea somewhere off the coast of Belize City, was a collective sigh of relief for everyone involved in an overnight search and rescue effort.
Martin Pariente, Uncle of Rescued Fisherman
“It’s not a nice feeling, you know, losing someone very dear to you, as close as my nephew is, you know. We always here of people getting lost at sea or getting killed and stuff. It doesn’t hit you that hard because of the situation Belize is in right now, but knowing that your nephew was not involved, he was just out fishing and then heard that he’s gone missing and looking at my mom and looking at my sister which is his mom, you know. The devastation they were going through, it’s very, very difficult.”
On Thursday, a group of five set out to sea on a fishing trip, including Christopher Pariente, Christopher Zheng, boat captain Michael Welch Jr., otherwise known as Fire, his ten-year-old son and other individual known only as Chabo. It is not clear what they encountered at sea but a distress call was placed to the Belize Coast Guard in the wee early hours of this morning.
“Around 2:30 this morning we received a call, a distress call whereby we were informed that a boat had experienced distress out at sea in the area of Water Caye and Goff’s Caye and the information was that the boat was taking in water. We immediately deployed our standby crew to the area and from there on we commenced searches.”
Audberto Pariente and his siblings received the troubling phone call around three a.m. and immediately mobilized a search party to head out to the location where they were last located.
Audberto Pariente, Uncle of Rescued Fisherman
“We got the message like three o’clock this morning and since then we haven’t slept and we have been busy coordinating with the coast guard and the BDF Defenders to do the search and rescue for us and the Coast Guard were updating us as they go along and we had also deployed, some friends had deployed some boats to look in the Goff’s Caye and Water Caye area, as that was the last message that we got that there were located at three o’clock in the morning.”
A concerted effort by the Belize Coast Guard, the Belize Defense Force Air Wing and a civilian search party resulted in the successful rescue of all five boaters. Their conditions at the point of discovery are described by Lieutenant Roque Canul.
Lt. Roque Canul
“They’re very weak, they seemed dehydrated and you are seeing the weather. I must imagine that they’re very, very cold at this point in time. So that’s their health condition at this point in time.”
“Can you give us some operational details as to how this search and rescue party set out?”
Lt. Roque Canul
“The initial deployment was our standby crew who, in any case, would be the first search and rescue unit that would be deployed in a case like this. Immediately after that we looked for other avenues, in this case I got in contact with the Belize Port Authority to send, and I requested for them to send out a notice to mariners because based on the information we received, we were looking at people floating out there.”
But where exactly were the fishermen off to and how did they end up adrift elsewhere? It’s a question that Martin Pariente, a seasoned boatman, is yet to have answered.
“They were supposed to be going right across there to the deep water port to go and fish, you know, how they ended up in that area where they were found is kinda hard, puzzling, you know, because, like I said, we heard they were going there. Until I speak to my nephew how is it that they got out there then I would be of a better understanding to then answer that question.”