Macal and Belize River claims three lives Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 April 2014 00:00

Since Friday of last week the Macal and Belize Rivers have claimed three lives. In the first instance, two students from Northern Belize met their deaths in an unplanned entry in to the Macal River, while a Guatemalan also drowned in the Belize River.

At about 3:30 pm last Friday, two students Anahi Zepeda and Edgar Puck stepped into the Macal River to wash off the mud from their bodies obtained after a tour of the Che Chem Ha Caves by the Arenal Road in Benque Viejo Town. The region of the river where the two fourth forms students from Escuela Secudaria Mexico in San Roman Village entered is by the temporary wooden bridge that connects San Ignacio to Santa Elena and where sometimes powerful under-currents exist. Unfortunately, 15 year old Anahi Zepeda lost her foothold on the lichen covered pebbles and was dragged down some 300 yards to where a deep section of the river is known to exist. This alarmed 16 year old Edgar Puck, who then dived in and tried to rescue his friend, but was dragged further down the river, they both did not resurface. A third student, Ruggen Tuz from San Narcisso then went to their aid but it was in a fruitless effort.

Shorty after, the body of Edgar Puck was found near the bank of the Macal River, where first aid was applied but with no success. At about 5:24 pm that same evening, the body of Anahi Zepeda was found further down the river. Both were then taken to the San Ignacio Community Hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival. A post mortem has since been conducted, which revealed that both friends died as a result of asphyxia by drowning.

Similar drowning incidents involving two other Belizeans have occurred  in that same area by the temporary wooden bridge in previous years. This occurred when  one individual attempted to rescue the other but misjudged the power of the currents.

Anahi Zepeda lived in San Juaquin Village and Edgar Puck was from Patchakan Village. Both were known to be top students in their class.

Two teachers, Ricardo Gideon and Emmanuel Yam from Escuela Secundaria Technica Mexico have since given a detailed report on this tragic incident.

There is great concern over the entire incident however, as the parents of the students report that permission was neither sought, nor given for them to go swimming. It is a situation that the school’s management will be investigating and sanctions will be issued if it is so necessary stated Carlos Castillo, the principal of Escuela Mexico.

In the third incident, Francisco Martin Juan, 33 years old, attempted to cross the Belize River on Sunday of this past weekend near Santa Familia Village, when the currents took him down. With the assistance of volunteer civilian divers, Francisco Juan was found at about 1:40 pm some 200 meters from his starting point. His body was taken to the San Ignacio Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Police are awaiting further instructions from the doctor at this hour, to escort the body to Belize City.

Francisco Juan was socializing with his uncle Jose Miguel Gaspar near the football field in Santa Familia that very evening. Both laborers are originally from San Miguel Acata, near Guatemala City. At the time that Francisco Juan had decided to wade in the Belize River he was under the influence of alcohol.