A family is tonight trying to come to grips with the untimely death of a 21 year old student, while the Belize Coast Guard is investigating the circumstances that led to the two boat collision in the Crooked Tree Lagoon this morning.
The accident occurred some time around 6:00 am, when two vessels belonging to the Coast Guard, one transporting 11 passengers, were making their way across the lagoon.
Eight students were injured and Benjamin Gentle Jr. lost his life in the incident. Commandant Elton Bennett briefed reporters on the primarily investigation.
Commandant Elton Bennett: “What we have received so far is that we started our regular operation at 4:30 this morning, transporting the villagers from Crooked Tree to where the bus can then travel further to Belize City. The two vessels were out in operations and one vessel approached the other. Apparently, there was a mechanical malfunction somewhere and instead of going in reverse, trying to slow down the vessel, it geared the malfunction and jumped into the other one and thereby causing the collision. The persons that got injured, were on board the small vessel. That is how the accident happened”.
Next, a joint and more thorough investigation will be conducted with the collaboration of the Police Department.
Commandant Elton Bennett: “We are going to do is a proper marine investigation, which will comprise of not only the Coast Guard, but the Police and the Belize Port Authority. So, it will be transparent; we will look at all angles. As a matter of fact, the Police is well involved into the investigation looking at the different aspects of it. So far, there are indications of mechanical malfunctions on board of the vessel, but the proper investigation will show what caused the accident”.
Villagers within the Crooked Tree Community have been employing this mode of transportation for the past few months. In fact, today seemed like an ordinary day. The passengers, as was the norm, would be transported to the causeway, to a waiting bus to take them into the city. But on this fatal morning, something went terribly wrong and led to the death of Ben Gentle Jr. His father, Ben Gentle Sr. was just about to make his way to the village, when he got the news.
“I don’t know what to call it; trauma, unbelief, disbelief, incident…I tried to go home last night, but the bus passed me by, didn’t want to stop,; I am thinking like it was an omen or a sign, so, I stayed at the place out here in Vernon Street, and the first thing this morning about 6:30 I got a call. A friend that lives here in Belize City said, I think you should call home. So, I said, what happened? He said, I don’t want to be the bearer of the wrong news, but call home. So, wife and my other older my son told me they are heading to the water side right now. Call back. So, when I called back, the told me, my son is dead”. Surprise hit me now. I am already on the bus going to Crooked Tree and I am thinking, how he had died? Calling back, they told me, boat get crashed. I want to know which boat? Is it a civilian boat or how? They told me two Coast Guard boats. So, I got totally on blank because that shouldn’t happen. These are government officials that we put faith into”.
His son suffered numerous abrasions to the body.
Mr. Ben Gentle Sr.: “He has all abrasions upon his right side of his pelvis go up to the shoulder and in his head and his body is badly bruised like he’s been rolled and cut up like a slab of meat with deep incisions in his back, which I can only imagine from riding the boats everyday because I ride the boats almost every day…I need an explanation”.
Area Representative for Belize Rural North, Hon. Edmund Castro says that the Government has pledged to assist Gentle’s family and those persons injured. The minister affirms that the Ministry of Works intends to close the gap between the two causeways.