Plane crash claims five lives

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 20, No. 9            March 4, 2010

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Authorities arrive at the scene of the accident.

Sir Barry Bowen.

The Casey family: Michael, Jill and children Makayla and Bryce.

    Last Friday evening, the Belizean nation lost remarkable people; a great entrepreneur who dabbled in many industries, a loving couple devoted to the educational development of the country’s children, and two babies who had promising futures ahead of them. Last Friday evening, the nation mourned the loss of Senator, Knight, bottling magnate, husband, father and friend Sir Barry Bowen. Last Friday evening, the nation lost the Casey family who for nine years, ran the Gallon Jug Community School, got married in Belize and with their two children made the country their home. Last Friday evening, the nation mourned the losses as they came to grip with the harsh reality – a plane crash had claimed all five lives and left no survivors.

    Shortly after 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 26th, 2010, Sir Barry Bowen, 64, and the Casey family; Michael, 32, Jillian (nee Shuessler), 32, Makayla, 2, and Bryce, 7 month old, boarded Bowen’s private blue and white six-seater Cessna airplane (the craft bore registration V3HDR) en route to San Pedro Town. They expected to be on the island in approximately half an hour where they would join their family and friends to enjoy a Luau fundraiser organized by the Island Academy, a private education institution owned by the Bowen family. At about 5:30 p.m., police officers were called to an area just south of the DFC Subdivision where they saw the plane on the ground having experienced extensive damage upon crashing. Inside the plane, officers discovered three of the five passengers, while the other two were discovered a few yards away from the wreckage.

    According to Captain Shark’s Boatyard employee Bob Gabourel, they were at work in the front yard when the sound of the crash followed by loud screams alarmed them. Their workplace is located a short distance away from where the airplane made it final stop, behind a building which will house Castillo’s Hardware. Gabourel, along with fellow coworkers, boarded his employer’s boat and drove to the scene. He explained that when he arrived at the site, people were there already trying to render assistance. They immediately joined in the efforts and at approximately 30 feet from the crash they saw the body of a man lying face up in a pool of water. The gentleman had received serious injuries and before attempting to administer first aid, the men worked on getting him to dry land. “It is something that I will never forget,” expressed Gabourel, “closer to the airplane we saw what we believed to be a doll. As we got closer we realized that it was a small baby.” He continues to explain that after placing the child’s body on dry land, they took a look inside craft and saw Sir Bowen on the pilot’s seat, and a lady on the back crouched with another child next to her.

    Family soon arrived at the scene, mourning the huge loss, as a crowd began to gather. Dr. Otto Rodriguez pronounced all five passengers dead on the scene and once the bodies were removed from the crash, they were transported the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital’s morgue.

    It was a somber night for Belize as the news traveled across the nation and the world. “Belize has lost its magnate,” “Rest in Peace Sir Barry,” and “Our hearts are filled with sorrow for the Bowen and Casey family,” were some of the items Twittered and Facebooked. It seemed the news took a life of its own and everyone mourned the loss in their own way. The Island Academy fundraiser was an eerie sight, with its colorful lights and fabulous decorations flapping in the wind. It was no longer held.

    An official police report states: Initial investigations revealed that the aircraft belonging to Barry Bowen and also piloted by him, transporting two teachers and their children to San Pedro Town, hit a roof and a lamppost near the San Pedro Airstrip causing the plane to lose control and eventually crash.

    At a press conference held on Wednesday, March 3rd, Belize’s Civil Aviation spoke on the crash; present for the report were Director of Civil Aviation Jose Contreras and Lead Investigator Brian Dominguez. According to their investigations, the private Cessna departed Belize City’s Municipal Airstrip at 5:11 p.m. enroute to the island. According to their investigations, everything seemed normal and at .8 of a mile before reaching the San Pedro Municipal Airstrip, the Cessna disappeared from radar (this is customary when a flight begins to descend. Aircrafts flying below 700 feet of altitude automatically disappear from radar). Investigators stated that the accident was a result of Bowen losing control of the aircraft because of contributing factors not yet ascertained. Lead Investigator Dominguez said that their investigations will continue for a period of approximately 12 months and during that time they hope to reconstruct the aircraft for further clues as to what may have caused the accident. Bowen had logged 5,705 hours of flight time during his flight career.

    Bowen was laid to rest in San Ignacio on Tuesday after a State Funeral. The Casey’s will be buried in the USA at an undetermined time. However on Wednesday, the Gallon Jug Community School was renamed in the Casey’s honor for the love and dedication that they had for the Belizean community and the educational needs of the children.
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