Headline — 03 February 2018 — by Micah Goodin
Miracle in Chiquibul!

Missing Chiquibul park rangers found alive and well! A nation, which had feared the worst, gives a sigh of relief

CHIQUIBUL, Cayo District, Wed. Jan. 31, 2018– Today, Wednesday, two Belizean men were found alive and in good health after they were reported missing in the Chiquibul on Monday.

Caracol park manager Luis Ramirez and his park ranger, Elroy Villanueva, had disappeared in the Chiquibul Forest reserve where Belizean national Danny Conorquie, 20, was gunned down in 2014 while on duty in this same area, frequented by aggressive Guatemalan xáteros.

The men were located by a Belize Defence Force (BDF) search party at around 3 p.m. today, Wednesday, near Sapote Camp, situated in Belizean territory, about 9 kilometers south-west of Caracol. They were then transported to the Loma Luz Hospital in Santa Elena, Cayo, and then released into the waiting arms of their overjoyed families.

According to both men, they had gone into the forest to pick chib, a vegetable. However, night set in and they got lost.

Ramirez, a diabetic, revealed that the first night was very challenging because it was raining. He said that the second night was also tough because it was very cold. Ramirez, who has eight years’ experience in the jungle, explained that it was his experience that led to his survival. He told the press that he did not panic.

According to Villanueva, who has two years’ experience in the jungle, while lost, they did not eat or drink anything. He said that while lost, they did some exercises to keep warm and built a thatch canopy under which they sought shelter.

However, rain still came through it, and they also did not sleep because they were afraid of some of the dangerous animals in the area.

Hours before the discovery of the men, Amandala spoke with Villanueva’s relatives who went to the Chiquibul searching for answers. According to them, the last time they saw him was when he left his mother’s home on Saturday.

His uncle, Andrew Chacon, had told our newspaper that he initially suspected that his nephew was being held in Guatemala for ransom.

“His girlfriend received a call last night, at exactly 11:58, from a Guatemalan number. She missed the call. About an hour later we tried to call back, but the phone went straight to voicemail. Nobody from Guatemala has the girlfriend’s number, and so, that clearly [told us that] Elroy is in Guatemala … probably in the custody of somebody,” he had said.

According to Chacon, he contacted BTL to help track down the number from which the call to his nephew’s girlfriend came, but BTL directed them to the police.

Chacon said that when he contacted the police, they provided no assistance. He threatened that he would hold a press conference in Belize City to expose them for not doing enough to locate the missing men.

Before the men were found, Amandala had also spoken to John Morris, the director of the Institute of Archaeology, which oversees all our national parks and reserves. According to Morris, he was concerned because the men knew the area and should not have gone missing.

Morris explained that given the very real threats of Guatemalan gold panners, xáteros and poachers, the safety of the men was a priority.

However, he explained that the perimeters of the Caracol were well-secured, and he further revealed that about 16 BDF soldiers had gone into the jungle to locate the men.

According to him, another search party comprised of officials from the Forestry Department, Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) and the BDF would have been deployed to the area if the search today had been unsuccessful.

A helicopter would have also been sent to provide assistance if the weather had improved, he added.

He explained that given the weather conditions, he was satisfied that authorities had been doing all they could to locate the men at that time.

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Deshawn Swasey

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