CHIQUIBUL, Cayo District, Thurs. May 18, 2017–Marvin Cristobal Chac Pop, 18, a Guatemalan laborer from the village of Mount Olivos, Guatemala, which is about a 4-hour walk from the Chiquibul forest, died after he fell off a cliff and hit his head on the rocks below. His body landed in a pool of water.
Pop had been illegally panning for gold in Belize’s Chiquibul Forest Reserve. The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon about 5 miles into the Chiquibul.
General David Jones, Commander of the Belize Defense Force, yesterday said that after they were informed of the fatal incident, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consul of Guatemala communicated with each other, and the BDF was requested to step in to recover the body.
Yesterday morning, two officers from the office of the OAS, along with an officer from the Guatemalan Consul, and four persons from Monte Los Olivos, two of whom were guides, led the team and the BDF patrol towards the area where Pop had fallen.
It had been reported that the incident occurred at Rio Blanco Conservation Post, but they realized that the body was closer to the Ceibo Chico Post. The team, after a 4-hour march from Rio Blanco to Ceibo Chico, found the body of the teenager.
General David Jones said that a BDF helicopter was flown into Ceibo Chico and two doctors were brought. They carried out an initial inspection of the body on the scene and they concluded that the boy died due to the fall.
The body was flown to the Philip Goldson International Airport, where it arrived at about 4:30 yesterday evening. It was then taken to a hospital for a mandatory autopsy to certify the cause of death.
The usual misinformation, characteristic of the Guatemalan media, was issued on Tuesday by a radio station which claimed that a Guatemalan soldier was shot and killed on the Belize side of the border in Chiquibul, while another radio station reported that four of the villagers went to pan for gold illegally in Belize, where Chac Pop fell and hit his head, and that Chac Pop lost consciousness.
His three friends reportedly told the Guatemalan radio station that they had to leave him there, because the BDF was approaching.
They claimed that when they returned, the BDF had hanged Chac Pop, according to that radio station.
General Jones said that the investigation determined that the teenager was not a Guatemalan soldier, and that his death had not been caused by the BDF soldiers, and that he had not been shot, but had died as a result of the fall. The result of the autopsy will be made available to the Guatemalans through their official sources, he said.
The Commandant also said that they were informed by the Guatemala military that two more persons, who they believe may have also fallen in the incident, had been injured. One reportedly suffered a broken ankle and the other a broken wrist, but this has not been confirmed. General Jones said that on their arrival at the scene, only the body of the teenager was seen.