BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 6, 2015–The Easter holiday for four men who were about to travel to the cayes on Holy Thursday became nightmarish when the inboard engine of the boat in which they were travelling exploded and the boat erupted into flames at about 1:00 on the afternoon of Holy Thursday near the “Hangar” boat landing by the seashore in front of the Belize City Municipal Airport.
The men onboard the boat were George Gonzalez, 34; Wallace Flowers, 41; the owner of the boat , Steven Bradley, 52; and the captain of the boat, Romaldo “Romy” Badillo, 59, all of Belize City.
Three of the men suffered varying degrees of injury and burns to their bodies. Wallace Flowers was given six stitches over his left eye and was released from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) that same afternoon, while George Gonzalez has been admitted to ward at the KHMH.
He will remain there for at least a month to avoid the risk of getting an infection because he suffered second degree burns on his hand and left leg. He also suffered first degree burns to the right hand and right leg.
“Romy” Badillo, 59, the captain of the boat, suffered the most injuries, including a large cut to the head, and he also suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 75% of his body. He has since been taken to a hospital in Guatemala which specializes in the treatment of burn victims, where doctors are trying to treat his burnt skin and tissues.
Also, Badillo had inhaled toxic gases during the explosion.
In contrast, Steven Bradley, the owner of the boat, suffered only minor injuries. He was treated and released from the hospital.
Bradley told reporters that after they launched the boat at the Hangar, he started the engine and made a big U-turn at low speed, and everything was fine.
On completing the turn, he brought the boat to the seawall and the workman and the driver came on board, and they began their journey.
They had not gone far – about 200 yards from the shore – when there was a loud explosion and the boat became engulfed in flames. There was a second explosion after the first explosion.
Bradley said that after the first explosion, he saw George Gonzalez’s legs and left arm on fire, and Gonzalez quickly jumped overboard.
Flowers was thrown off the right side of the boat into the sea, and he escaped relatively unhurt.
The explosion, however, hurled Badillo forward on to the left front side of the boat and he landed face down on the seat. His hand and his right leg were burning at that point, and he appeared dazed.
Bradley said that he tried to get Badillo to jump overboard, but was unsuccessful, and then the second explosion occurred. The blast, which was a smaller one, knocked him into the sea.
He swam back to the boat to help Badillo, who was alone in the boat at that time, and that was when he saw him get into a position and throw himself overboard.
Bradley said that he swam up to help him, and saw that Badillo was severely burned. They were then rescued by a boat that was in the area. A lifejacket was thrown to them and he attached Badillo to it and helped him onto the boat.
They were then taken to the Fisheries Unit Wharf, where the four men were all met by a BERT ambulance that rushed them to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), where Badillo was rushed to the intensive care unit, after which he was rushed to a hospital in Guatemala, where he is undergoing treatment.
Badillo’s family said that his burns that were initially considered to be third degree, were downgraded to second degree after treatment and some surgical procedures removed much of the burnt skin. He is sedated to prevent him from experiencing intense pain when he is conscious.
Ben Matura, Operations Officer of the Belize Fire Service, reported that they responded to reports of a boat fire at about 1:15 p.m. Holy Thursday at the Hangar. On their arrival, they saw a boat engulfed in flames in the sea near the seawall. They quickly put out the fire.
Their investigation found that two 5-gallon fuel bottles loaded with gas were near the engine. The bottle covers were not secured, and they believe that the fumes from the gas went into the intake of the engine, which caused it to explode, and as a result, the boat caught fire.
City Councilor Dion Leslie who was at the Belize City Municipal Airport at the time, told the media that the explosion was so loud that it rattled the windows of the buildings. He quickly ran outside to see what was happening and saw a boat about 500 feet away, by the shore, engulfed in flames, and one of the men had jumped overboard, while the remaining three were still in the boat.
The men in the hangar began to shout at them to jump overboard, but there was hesitation, and he believed that they were dazed and confused due to the explosion. Two of the men later jumped into the water, leaving the last man in a dazed state, during which he suffered burns to his body, after which he jumped into the water.
He said that the scene was horrific and that it escalated quickly.
Bradley said that the engine of the boat was new, and had been in use for only 37 hours. The explosion occurred shortly after they started the engine, and within seconds, the flames were high and thick smoke covered the boat. The estimated cost of the boat and the engine is estimated to be about $60,000.
Badillo’s family says he is a tough warrior, and he is expected to pull through the ordeal. However, he is going through a painful and costly treatment for the second degree burns to his body. His family and friends have organized a fundraiser to generate funds for his treatment, and the event is called a “Beers and Bites fundraiser for Captain Romy Badillo.”
Nydia Riverol, a family member, told reporters that the fundraising event will be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Hour Bar field. The event will feature a barbecue sale, along with a cash bar for sale of hard and soft drinks, and also a bouncy house, so that kids can come and play.
A music system will be entertaining the crowd and several DJs will be present to entertain those who attend.
Riverol announced that they will also conduct a telethon and a dance at the Hour Bar’s Thirsty Thursday on Saturday night.
Individuals can place donations to the fundraiser for Romy Badillo into Atlantic Bank account #211567972.