Editorial — 01 April 2014

A football and basketball trip to Peten had suffered the worst accident in Belize’s sports history. Four young men had been pinned under the Peten truck after the truck’s left side had been raked asunder by a protruding, unlit tractor blade. As they screamed in pain, in the darkness, someone lit a match to see better. But the truck had overturned, and fumes from its gasoline tank had filled the air. There was an explosion and fire. Gilroy Buller, Errol Clarke, Kyrle “Old Man” Turton and Charles “Buki” Leslie were burned to a crisp. Jaime Zaldivar was badly burned, and ended up losing a leg to the surgeon’s knife.

The thing about the tragedy near Mile 8 on the Western Road was that no one paid the price for it, except the ill-fated athletes, and their friends who walked around in a daze for weeks. For high quality Belizean athletes to be traveling in a truck, not a bus, across the border with a driver no one had ever seen before, was not considered unusual in those days. For their deaths to go just like that, no one really to blame legally, was not considered shocking. Insurance companies almost never paid claims in 1971.

The owners of the lowboy and tractor which had caused the accident were Belize Sugar Industries, the subsidiary of the superrich British transnational, Tate and Lyle, which could have afforded to pay some damages. But this was a story which ended up lost in the dark confusion and ignorance which is the “history” of sports in Belize.

– pgs. 25, 26, SPORTS, SIN AND SUBVERSION, Evan X Hyde, Ramos Publishing, Belize City, 2008

In our news business at Kremandala, we have to be careful when we report incidents. The Police Department has a lot of power, because a report only becomes official when the police decide to release it. Like all other government departments in Belize today, there are occasions when the police play games. A frequent and noticeable occasion is when they decide not to release the name of an accused or a suspect, and later we find out that it is someone highly connected socio-politically or someone of great financial means. Somewhere inside the Department, there is a double standard. There are times when the double standard looks like cover up.

A horrific accident took place on the George Price Highway near Cotton Tree on Tuesday night when a protruding blade on a farm tractor being transported on a towhead tore open the side of a bus on the way from Belmopan to Belize City. For some reason, the story arrived on media desks all over Belize the same way: a terrible tragedy had been averted. There had been five injuries. According to the issue of this newspaper published on Friday morning, “Cal (the driver) is scheduled to be released from the hospital Sunday, while four commuters who were seated closer to the front of the bus were also injured, although the extent of their injuries have yet to be disclosed by police.”

Well, Isabel Bennett, one of Belize’s most senior and qualified nurses, a lecturer at the University of Belize who is widely known in medical circles, a single mother of two whose success story has always been considered remarkable by her friends and associates, is lying in the intensive care section of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital even as we write. She is still heavily sedated and will be confined for months. One of her hips is shattered and the extent of an injury to her spine is still uncertain. Doctors called for 12 pints of blood. Isabel is immobile. She was not burned to death, as Gilroy Buller, Errol Clarke, Kyrle Turton and Charles Leslie were burned to death in August of 1971 in a similar accident, but, for us at this newspaper, this is déjà vu. Belize has learned nothing in 43 years, and this is so typical of us. So typical.

We have the suspicion that this story was “played down” last week by the Police Department. The matter was orchestrated somewhere. “Oh, nothing really happened. It could have been bad, but we were lucky.” It wasn’t really that way, readers. Belize has lost a very valuable human resource, the lady Isabel Bennett, for an undisclosed period of time. This was bad, and it could have been worse. She is still not out of the woods. Somebody has to pay for this.

BELMOPAN, Wed. Mar. 26, 2014

A truck driver’s alleged indiscretion almost cost the lives of roughly 18 to 20 passengers who were on board a James Bus on the way to Belize City last night after a projecting heavy duty farm tractor’s rake ripped open the left side of the bus like a tin can.

The 18-wheeler towhead’s driver, Freddie Valdez, 39, from Duck Run Two in Cayo, was reportedly transporting the tractor and plough to Spanish Lookout.

Valdez reported to Belmopan police that he was conscious of the hazards that the heavy machinery posed onto other oncoming vehicles, and therefore was on his way to Westar Hotel near Roaring Creek, intending to continue the journey the following morning.

According to Valdez, when he realized that a bus was coming in the opposite direction, he swerved off the highway, and claimed that the wheels of the roam plough were well off the shoulder of the highway.

Eyewitnesses reports, however, suggest that the plough extended as much as 4 feet from off the side of the trailer, which resulted in the traumatic experience for the bus’ commuters.

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