Belieze Liveaboard Accident (LONG)

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Posted by stwally on October 10, 2001 at 13:50:07:

The M/V Wave Dancer, in Belize, became a victim to Hurricane Iris on Monday
evening, October 8. The vessel carried her full complement of 28 passengers
and crew. To date, we have eight survivors. The bodies of 18 victims have
been recovered. Two more members of the passengers/crew are still missing.
This tragedy took place late in the evening on Monday. Rescue efforts
commenced during the "eye" of the Hurricane (around 11:00 pm) from
boats and did not cease until the Hurricane regained full force. The efforts
immediately resumed this morning as the worst of the storm passed. They
continue as this message is being sent.

To the families and friends of the passengers and crew who were lost, we
our profound condolences and sympathy.

More complete details follow in the form of the press release prepared today.

We will continue to keep you informed of all developments. After further
discussion with the families involved, we will keep you advised as to
funds and ongoing efforts to help those directly touched by this

To those who have called and written to express their sympathy, our deepest
thanks. Please use email whenever possible, as we need our phone lines open
deal with the immediate problems over the next few days.


Hurricane Iris, packing 140 mph winds, made landfall in the southern
(Placencia) region of the Central American Country of Belize during the
of October 8, 2001, capsizing the liveaboard dive vessel M/V Wave Dancer with
all twenty-eight passengers and crew onboard. As of Tuesday afternoon, the
bodies of eighteen victims had been recovered. Eight survivors have been
accounted for, and search and recovery operations are ongoing. Two members
the passengers/crew are still missing.

The liveaboard dive vessel M/V Wave Dancer of the Peter Hughes Diving DANCER
FLEET was capsized by a combination of strong wind and surging water while
moored in Big Creek, an area of Southern Belize well known to boaters for its
protection from storms. Big Creek is approximately 80 miles south of Belize
City, the site of Belize's international airport and the point of embarkation
for Wave Dancer cruises. No hotel rooms were available in Belize City to
offload the passengers because this area of Belize was evacuated. Large
portions of Belize City were destroyed by Hurricane Hattie in 1961.

The Wave Dancer was moored to a pier with other commercial vessels that
routinely use this area as a refuge from storms and hurricanes. This area
a similar procedure was used in 1998 to avoid Hurricane Mitch. Despite
following all procedures for securing the vessel during a hurricane, an
unusually strong surge of water apparently lifted the vessel dramatically
at the pier, snapping all of the stern lines and allowing the wind to rip the
vessel from the pier and capsize it in the middle of the creek. This
during the evening hours, and rescue efforts from neighboring boats began
immediately during the "eye" of the hurricane in late evening. As the storm
resumed rescue efforts were halted for a few hours and commenced early
morning when conditions permitted.

According to PHD spokesperson and Executive Vice President Tom Conlin: "Our
first responsibility in this tragedy is to continue all search and recovery
efforts. Peter Hughes, President of the company, left for Belize as soon as
received word of the accident, and will personally participate in all ongoing
efforts. Helicopters and search boats have been deployed to the area and are
searching all areas of the mangrove system. All of the families have been
contacted to keep them informed about all details of both victims and
survivors. We will provide further information and a list of passengers and
crew once all these facts are confirmed and the families are notified."

The l20 foot Wave Dancer is part of the Peter Hughes Diving Dancer Fleet of
liveaboard dive vessels. The M/V Wave Dancer had been in operation in Belize
for nine years without incident prior to Hurricane Iris. The vessel had been
chartered by the Richmond Dive Club of Richmond, VA.

According to British military sources on station in Belize, the most
concentrated force of Hurricane Iris hit an area of the Belize coast 15 miles
wide. This path, featuring the most intense wind and water movement, was
centered directly on the Placencia/Big Creek area.

5723 NW 158 Street, Miami Lakes, FL 33014
Ph: 1-800-9-DANCER (800-932-6237), (305) 669-9391, Fax (305)

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