GEORGE PRICE HIGHWAY, Tues. Feb. 17, 2015–The Jaguar Paw Road junction was the scene of a dreadful road traffic accident that occurred shortly before noon today when an 18-wheeler delivery truck rear-ended an SUV with three passengers between Miles 36 and 37 on the George Price Highway.
The high-impact collision sent the blue late-model Suzuki SUV careening into a ditch, while the cargo truck ended belly up in the middle of the highway, which became strewn with thousands of oranges that spilled from its mangled container during the deadly crash.
At the time of the incident, Leon Rodriguez, 30, a tour guide of a Belize City address, was heading west in the SUV towards Frank’s Eddy Village, Cayo District, along with American nationals Samuel Douglas Schulte, 66, and Teresa Lin Meuers, 56, who were both in the country on a Valentine’s weekend cruise and decided to take a day trip to Jaguar Paw, a popular tourist destination located off the George Price Highway.
Rodriguez told police that when he was about to turn left onto the Jaguar Paw Road, a Western Star towhead truck, which was travelling in the same direction, collided with the tail end of his vehicle, which caused him to lose control.
“He [Rodriguez] had his indicator on from a distance coming down the highway. [When] he got in front of the junction, he turned off onto the right side, and the truck tipped the back of his vehicle and it flipped, [and] the back of the truck just kept on dragging it [the SUV] down the highway until it ended up where the drain is, and then the big truck and the trailer just flipped over [on the road]”, claimed one eyewitness who was standing at the Jaguar Paw junction when the incident unfolded.
We were told that the blue Suzuki was slowing down to pull off to the right shoulder of the road, so that the truck – which was coming from behind – could pass, after which the SUV would then cut across to the left side of the road en route to Jaguar Paw.
Before that could have happened, however, the truck attempted to overtake the Suzuki, but a bus was reportedly coming from the opposite direction, and so the truck pulled back just in time to bump the blue Suzuki from behind, causing it to spin out of control.
At that time, the trailer became unhitched, overturned, clipped the SUV from the rear, dragged it along the highway, and flung it into a ditch at the side of the road.
Trapped in the wreckage were Rodriguez, the driver of the SUV; Schulte, who was sitting on the front passenger’s side of the SUV; and Meuers, who was practically crushed as she sat in the back seat of the vehicle.
Rodriguez, who works for Big John’s Tour and Taxi Company, complained of chest and abdominal pain and was transported to the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan, where he was treated and later released.
Schulte, who sustained head and body injuries, was taken to the Western Regional Hospital, but was later transported to a private hospital in Belize City for further treatment.
While Rodriguez and Schulte survived the horrific experience, Meuers – who sustained serious head and body injuries – wasn’t as fortunate, and died while undergoing treatment at the Western Regional Hospital.
The Western Star towhead truck, which was on its way to take an estimated 675 bags of oranges to the Hummingbird Citrus Limited, located at Pomona Valley in the Stann Creek District, was at the time being driven by Miguel Angel Arriaza, 20, of St. Margaret’s Village, Cayo District.
Arriaza was accompanied by Emil Lisbey, 16, also of St. Margaret’s Village, who sustained a cut on the right side of his head and was also treated and released.
Arriaza, who was driving his father’s truck, was the only one who escaped unscathed, and he later gave his own version of the events, which was inconsistent with the other eyewitness accounts.
“I had a good distance from the vehicle and suddenly, the vehicle just brakes. They didn’t put on their indicator; [it was] just parked there. I was coming in the back and I blew my horn because another vehicle was coming, but I couldn’t stop [because] it isn’t easy to stop a loaded truck like that”, a relatively calm Arriaza told the media.
Belmopan police are investigating, and we were informed that both drivers have been served with Notices of Intended Prosecution.