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Boat explosion claims two little girls Print E-mail

Family members of 8-year-old Kimberly Melissa Guy and 10-year-old Jamiri Yasmin Guy are still trying to come to terms with their sudden and unfortunate deaths. Sometime just before 3 p.m. on Sunday May 5, the girls along with their mother, Rosalie Catch, and their step father, Jaime Interiano were on board the Water Jets Water Taxi waiting for departure to Caye Caulker when there was an unexpected explosion at the stern of the boat very close to where they were seated.

Panic, fear and pain overcame the 30 other passengers as they struggled to get off the boat, some with their clothes torn to shreds and others simply walking around in a daze. Shortly after the explosion, which did not create a blaze, persons sprang to action. Cell phone video shows  a tourist on top of one of the counters inside the terminal performing CPR on one of the little girls as the child’s mother was desperately on her cell phone making a call. More cell phone video shows as a woman was carried into an ambulance and a man walked past with his shirt all torn up.

“A total of fourteen persons were admitted… suffering from varying degrees of burns and fractures to their body,” stated Assistant Superintendent of Police Alejandro Cowo. Among those injured are Canadian tourist, Lauria Gatte; Santiago Guzman, 30; Trudy Rulef, four American tourists: Christina Lowry, 49; Joseph Lee, 56; Paul Jensen, 43; and 16-year-old Brie Jensen.

One of the directors of the Ocean Ferry Belize, Charles Young, told News 5 that the explosion occurred just as the boat captain had started one of the boat’s engines. He added that the boat was hired to do the run and had expected it to be in good condition as it makes regular runs to Mexico. “This boat goes from Caye Caulker to Chetumal and it goes every other day. It goes one in, one out with the other company, the Belize Express Company. This is only the second time that we have been using this boat. I use another boat from Caye Caulker that we normally charter and I could not get that boat yesterday because the guy was working on it so I chartered this boat,” said Young.

The fire department’s Benisford Matura, Assistant Fire Chief, told the press that when they responded to the incident they did not encounter any fire; however, they mobilized to help other emergency personnel in aiding those injured. Having completed that task they began their investigation which has yielded that the boat was rented from a company San Pedro Water Jet International. Matura says that the explosion was likely caused by a gasoline leak, “when fuel vapors reach 1.5 to 7.5% any spark would ignite it,” said Matura. He noted that the 45-foot, 68-passenger capacity was being captained by Ernesto Delgado with Santiago Guzman and Jonathan Teck being his deck hands. Apparently Delgado had started a fourth engine when the explosion took place. Matura says that examining the boat there was an accumulation of fuel near the stern and there was a smell of gasoline. The explosion was a flash, he added, stating that the other three fuel tanks of on the vessel were intact. Had those exploded it would have been catastrophic, he said. At this time, the authorities are looking at the bilge pump switch or the electrical system of the boat engine to determine a source of ignition.

As for the boat itself, its inspection falls under the purview of Port Authority and Matura says that there may be a need to start looking at more regular inspections on boats and in particular the fueling of these vessels where precaution should be taken.

At this time, Young told News 5 that, “We feel really, really sorry for the families. We are working hand in hand with the authorities to see how we can help. We assist everyone as best as we could. We flew back people to the states. We paid for all their medical expenses. We are currently getting in contact with the family who lost their children and still injured. We are trying our best to work with them and see how we can assist them.”