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Boat company and captain on trial for 2019 explosion

HighlightsBoat company and captain on trial for 2019 explosion

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 7, 2022

The trial of San Pedro Water Jets International Limited and boat captain Ernest Delgado, who are facing charges of criminal negligence in connection with a 2019 boat explosion near the Swing Bridge in Belize City that caused the death of two young sisters from Xaibe Village, in Corozal—Yamiri Yasmin Guy, 10, and Kimberly Melissa Guy, 8—has been ongoing this week. The three-day portion of the trial, which initially commenced in May of this year, took place before Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser.

According to a 2019 AMANDALA report, on Sunday afternoon, May 5, the Guy sisters, along with their mother, Rosalie Catch, and their stepfather, Jaime Interiano, were among a group of about thirty passengers that boarded a boat belonging to San Pedro Water Jets International Limited which was heading to Caye Caulker. They were actually customers of Ocean Ferry Belize Water Taxi, which, after finding that its own vessel was malfunctioning, hired the boat and crew of San Pedro Water Jets International Limited to transport the passengers to their destination.

But prior to their departure, as Delgado was cranking up the engine, there was a huge explosion at the stern of the vessel which injured the passengers seated nearby, and caused the deaths of the Guy sisters.

An investigation later revealed that there was a leakage which led to a build-up of gasoline—a fuel that was not compatible with the particular model of engine being used on that boat. After the investigation was concluded, the Belize Port Authority charged Delgado, San Pedro Water Jets International Limited, and Ocean Ferry Belize Limited with criminal negligence in connection with the deaths of Yamiri Guy and Kimberly Guy as well as causing a vessel that was unsafe to be sent on a voyage and attempting to send a vessel that was unsafe on a voyage. Notably, the charges against Ocean Ferry Belize Limited were later dropped.

On Tuesday, September 6, attorney Darrell Bradley, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Belize Port Authority, called several witnesses, including Delon Castro, an expert electrician from the Port Authority, who testified that the cause of the explosion could be traced to the bilge pump, where he found gasoline, which was apparently sucked into the internal mechanism of the pump (to be discarded) but was ignited by the electrical sparks produced by that mechanism.

Also speaking in court was Catch, who emotionally recounted the traumatic loss of her two young daughters.

American resident of Indianapolis, Indiana, 59-year-old Joseph Michael Lee, who was visiting Belize for the first time and was onboard the vessel when the explosion happened and received extensive burns from the incident, causing him to be unable to work for a month, returned to Belize and testified on behalf of the prosecution. Lee told 7News that he made a promise to Catch and several others that he would participate in the case as a witness.

“As I told Rosa Catch, the mom of the two girls who perished during this accident, as I told the two women in Canada—one of whom has not walked in 3 years—that I would see this through to the end. And it was important that I come down, be a voice for them, tell the story, and make sure that no one is forgotten here. That’s the single biggest reason for me being here … there had been many trial dates, many trial dates postponed, but that we’re finally here is all that matters at the end of the day, and I am very thankful that the magistrate is currently hearing the case and will hopefully be making some sort of a decision soon. When I came back down here a year ago, this past May, I went to Corozal to visit Rosa and her family and see where the girls are buried. And when I came back to Belize City to get on a water taxi from a different company, to go to the island of Caye Caulker for my vacation, it was tough. It was tough setting foot on a water taxi. It was tough setting foot on a water taxi in Belize, where the accident happened,” Lee said.

Lee pointed out that since the accident, there has been no enhancement of the safety measures and procedures that should be followed before the boat leaves the dock.

Attorney Mark Williams is representing San Pedro Water Jets International Limited. It is worth noting that Delgado has recently been a no-show in court.

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