On May 5, 2019, two sisters: 10-year-old Yamiri Yasmin Guy, and 8-year-old Kimberly Melissa Guy, died from injuries they suffered from a boat explosion that happened right at the Swing Bridge in Belize City.

These two girls and their parents were part of a group of a little more than 30 passengers who boarded a boat belonging to San Pedro Water Jets International Limited. The entire group was attempting to travel to the cayes, and they were customers of the Ocean Ferry Belize Water Taxi terminal. The vessel and its crew were hired by Ocean Ferry management to transport their passengers because their own vessel was not operational that day. But, shortly after the captain fired up the engines, a freak explosion occurred at the stern of the vessel. Those closest to the blast suffered varying degrees of injuries, but the Guy sisters were closest, and they were killed.

After conducting an independent investigation, the Belize Port Authority charged the boat master, Ernesto Delgado, "San Pedro Water Jets International Limited," and the water taxi service operator, "Ocean Ferry Belize Limited" with the criminal offenses of negligence in causing the loss of life of Yamiri Guy and Kimberly Guy; causing a vessel that was unsafe to be sent on a voyage; and, Attempting to send a vessel that was unsafe on a voyage. After careful consideration, the authorities decided to discontinue their prosecution against Ocean Ferry.

The trial for that case began in May of this year before Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer. That's when attorney Darrell Bradley, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Belize Port Authority, had to ask the court for an ex-parte trial. That's because several of the defendants, including the boat captain, did not show up for the case. We understand Ernest Delgado was attending court for the many months that case made it to court. But, as soon as his defense attorney changed, he stopped showing up for the adjournments.

Today was the actual start of a 3-day trial on this case, and Bradley called marine investigator Delone Castro to testify as the first main witness.

Castro, who is an expert electrician for the Port Authority, told the court that the cause of the boat explosion was mostly localized to the bilge pump area. He told the court that he found evidence of gasoline in the bilge pump and that this specific model was not built to interact with gasoline. Based on his expertise, he concluded the flammable fuel was vacuumed into the internal mechanism of the bilge pump as part of the fluids that would be evacuated from the vessel. The problem is that this pump's internal mechanism produces electrical sparks, which ignited the fuel. That then resulted in a deadly explosion.

American Joseph Michael Lee, a 59-year-old resident of Indianapolis, Indiana, traveled from his home country to Belize to testify on behalf of the prosecution. On the day of the explosion, he was attempting to travel from Belize City to Caye Caulker. He was among the passengers who were seated at the back of the boat near the center of the explosion.

Late this afternoon, our news team spoke with Joseph Lee. He told us that he made a promise to the mother of the girls that he would participate in the case as a witness even if it meant coming all the way from Indiana to revisit a traumatic day:

Daniel Ortiz
"Why was it so important for you to not only keep track of where it's at during every stage but travel down from the US to be a witness for the prosecution?"

Joseph Michael Lee - Prosecution Witness/Explosion Victim
"You know, as I told Rosa Catch, the mom of the two girls who perished during this accept, as I told the two women in Canada - one of whom has not walked in 3 years - that I would see this through to the end. And it was important that I come down, be a voice for them, tell the story, and make sure that no one is forgotten here. That's the single biggest reason for me being here."

Daniel Ortiz
"Tell us about your views on the fact that it's been a very long time to get to this place. I'm pretty sure you had instances of frustration and maybe a loss of confidence that we would get to an actual trial date."

Joseph Michael Lee
"You know, there had been many trial dates, many trial dates postponed, but that we're finally here is all that matters at the end of the day, and I am very thankful that the magistrate is currently hearing the case and will hopefully be making some sort of a decision soon. When I came back down here a year ago, this past May, I went to Corozal to visit Rosa and her family and see where the girls are buried. And when I came back to Belize City to get on a water taxi from a different company, to go to the island of Caye Caulker for my vacation - if you will - it was tough. It was tough setting foot on a water taxi. It was tough setting foot on a water taxi in Belize, where the accident happen."

Daniel Ortiz
"What are your impressions of the safety routines and features of water taxis now?"

Joseph Michael Lee
"You know, having ridden water taxis twice, going to and from Caye Caulker, I would just say to the Port Authority, this is not just tourists who are on those boats. These are Belizeans. These are your own people, and to have better safety standards and better conversations that are had prior to a water taxi leaving, is something that didn't happen on the boat that I rode twice. [It] really kind of incensed me that nothing was learned from this, and granted, we were fortunate that the boat was docked. If the boat had been in the water and that explosion had happened, many more lives would have been lost because people would have panicked. So, there's a bright side that this accident happened at the dock. But, I just see, from my last visit, that maybe not much has changed, and they really need to, just basic safety principles."

Lee told the court that that he heard the vessel's engines start up, and shortly after that, there was an explosion.

He described to the court that after dashing out of the boat, he realized that he was injured, and he saw one of the emergency first responders trying to resuscitate one of the Guy sisters.

Guy then had to fly back home to receive specialized medical treatment for second and third-degree burns.

The next prosecution witness was Rosa Catch, the mother of the two deceased girls, who were with them on the boat at the time of the explosion. With the help of a Spanish to English translator, she recounted that moment when the explosion went off and her daughters were fatally injured. First responders tried their best to remove the injured girls from the boat so that attempts could be made to resuscitate them.

Her first daughter died right after the explosion, and her other daughter passed away shortly after being rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment.

Attorney Mark Williams is representing San Pedro Water Jets International Limited.

Channel 7