On Sunday evening at approximately 5:25 p.m., two water taxis traveling in opposite routes collided on the narrow channel between Caye Chapel and Caye Caulker. Water taxi “Tsunami” had 39 passengers and was traveling from Caye Caulker to Belize City while “Big Al’s” 45 passengers were being transported from Belize City to Caye Caulker.
10 minutes after receiving the call for help, three boats were dispatched to the site of the accident. All passengers were transported to their destinations and only three received minor injuries, one victim was treated for a dislocated shoulder.
According to reports, both captains saw each other, but did not calculate the distance separating them properly. Once Captain Rene Rosado of the “Tsunami” realized that they had both miscalculated, he swerved to the left towards the reef. The attempt came a little too late as “Big Al”, hit the “Tsunami’s” stern. Both boats are estimated to have been driving at 30 miles per hour.
On Tuesday, The San Pedro Sun attempted to call Major Gilbert Swazo, Operations Manager at the Belize Port Authority, but was unable to reach him since he was in Placencia investigating a boat accident which occurred two weeks ago in the Placencia Lagoon. However, in an interview with Channel 5 News, Major Swazo stated, “[…] while the vessels had life jackets available, our reports indicate thus far, none of the passengers had on any life jacket. So, it would appear that neither the masters, nor the boating public are taking heed to wearing life jackets. […] It is rather difficult, even if you are a strong swimmer, if you are thrown out of a vessel to put a life jacket on when you are in the water. So, we ask that everyone become very much aware ask for the lifejacket and wear it at all times.” Major Swazo went on to comment that the boats have been grounded until investigations are completed. According to President of the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association Ramon Reyes Jr. on a paid television advertisement, both captains have been suspended from driving until investigations are completed and reassured the public that safety is their number one priority.
The victims’ hospital expenses were paid by the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association.