PLACENCIA, Stann Creek District, Mon. Sept. 14, 2015–Vance Edward Cabral, 45, a businessman of Placencia, died after he was shot with a licensed firearm which his cousin had been handling while they were socializing and drinking onboard a boat, Island Dancer, which was docked at a marina in Seine Bight near the Placencia Peninsula, at about 3:30 Thursday afternoon, September 10.
Police reported that Cabral had been shot in the head, and that he died almost immediately. According to police, after the shooting, his cousin, Jeffrey Cabral, 52, who is reportedly responsible for the shooting, “threw the gun overboard, in his fright”.
Inspector Dennis Myles, Commander of Placencia police, said that a police dive team immediately began to dive in the area, and found the gun.
Vance Cabral was taken to the Placencia Polyclinic, where he was declared dead on arrival at 3:42 p.m.
Inspector Myles said that the witnesses who were present when the weapon was discharged were cooperating with the investigation.
Reports are that Vance Cabral and his friends and cousin had been out socializing earlier in the day, as part of the September 10th celebrations. They had been celebrating in Placencia, but they left the village and drove to the marina, several miles outside Placencia, where Jeffrey Cabral took them onto the boat, where they continued drinking. It was during the merry-making that Cabral was shot.
The Firearms Standing Order and Weapons Safety Procedures state that it is an offense to carry a firearm into a public place, or to be in possession of a firearm when intoxicated.
Police have also said that it is mandatory that before a gun license is issued by police to an applicant, he must have attended a basic weapons training course, and have knowledge of firearm handling, and must be versed in the weapon safety drills.
Police reported today that Jeffrey Cabral, a boat captain of Placencia, was today taken to the Independence Magistrate Court, where he was arraigned on a charge of murder. He was remanded to the Belize Central Prison until November 23.
Vance Cabral, the owner/operator of Advance Diving in Placencia, a tour guide company, gained public and international media attention when in October 2005, he took a group of tourists on a diving expedition, which was comprised of 4 divers and 8 snorkelers.
The diving expedition was to go to Silk Caye with the snorkelers and to Gladden Spit, where the divers would do their diving.
On arrival at Silk Caye, Cabral and the snorkelers got off the boat and he remained with the group as the guide, while his assistant, Mark Tucker, continued to Gladden Spit with the four divers.
The group of snorkelers then began their snorkeling under Cabral’s watch.
However, while the boat was taking the divers to Gladden Spit, the boat’s engine began to malfunction. It then stopped and did not restart. Tucker then threw down the anchor and waited for help, but the rusted chain broke and the boat began to drift.
Ultimately, the four divers, John Bain, Nancy Masters, Abigail Brinkman, and Yutaka Maeda, jumped out of the boat to try to swim back to Silk Caye, which was reportedly a mile and a half away, but did not make it, and they began to drift away, and in fact were in the sea for over 2 days.
In the end, one of the divers, Dr. Abigail Brinkman, drowned.
In the Supreme Court on October 10, 2010, Justice Oswald Legall awarded the parents of Dr. Abigail Brinkman US$35,016 after finding that Vance Cabral, owner of Advanced Diving, and dive master Mark Tucker were negligent in their handling of the divers during the October 2005 expedition to Silk Caye, 22 miles east of Placencia.
Justice Legall found Cabral and Tucker guilty of negligence and neglect, stating that the defendants should have returned to the dock to check the engine after it shut down the first time, despite their suggestion that this was a frequent occurrence due to “bad gas” from Mexico. It was clear that the engine, anchor and VHF radio aboard were not maintained in proper working condition, and had they been, the tragedy could have been avoided, the judge ruled.
Also, a small craft warning had been issued for the coast, though Cabral said he had not listened to the weather report. It was probable that the engine had other problems that ought to have been detected by the defendants before going out.
Reports are that that morning, while they were travelling to Silk Caye from Placencia, water got into the Yamaha engine filter and cut off power, causing the boat to drift for three miles before Cabral got it re-started.
While Tucker was travelling to Gladden Spit with the divers, halfway to their destination, water again got into the engine and shut it down for good.
Attempts by tourist John Bain, an attorney, and Tucker to re-start the engine failed, and calls for help on the VHF radio were futile, as the radio did not work.
Vance Cabral, who was observing the boat through a pair of binoculars, got worried because it was getting late. He jumped into the sea and went looking for the boat, which was about 2 miles away, leaving his group of snorkelers on Silk Caye.
Police reported that Cabral did not make it to the dive boat, but instead managed to swim to Little Water Caye, a nearby caye where he called police. Rangers on the caye, along with Cabral, immediately began a search and rescue operation.
As night approached, more assistance was sought from members of the local tour guide association, who assembled a search party. Other members of the community sought aerial support from the Belize Defence Force Maritime Wing and the British Army Camp, and the Belize Defence Force Maritime Wing took over the rescue operation.
Three divers had worn scuba suits, but were not able to swim back to Silk Caye. While Bain, Masters, and Maeda survived the ordeal, Abigail Brinkman, 28, a medical student from the United States, who did not have on a scuba suit, did not.
According to reports the divers were spotted by a BDF Defender aircraft and later picked up by a boat in the area that was participating in the intensive search and rescue effort.
The BDF search team found the first missing diver 24 miles southeast of Glovers Reef. The other three victims, including Abigail Brinkman, were found shortly after floating in the sea. The three survivors all suffered from dehydration and hypothermia, and had ingested a lot of salt water. Being fair-skinned, they had also suffered second-degree burns.