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San Pedro Daily Wednesday,
  April 4, 2012

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Tourists die during snorkeling trip
to Hol Chan

There is tragic news tonight out of the island of Caye Caulker where a snorkeling trip ended terribly for two visitors. A group of seven men and women, vacationing in Belize, set out on an expedition, in a vessel named Cyclone led by Tsunami Tours of Caye Caulker this morning.  As they snorkeled near the channel, the group became separated when strong waves began drifting them farther out to the reef. Five of them were later rescued by coastguard personnel dispatched to the area; however, American national Roger Burgess and Zyihe Florencia believed to be of Italian nationality, were not as fortunate. The bodies of the two tourists were recovered near the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, off the coast of Ambergris Caye shortly after midday today. The survivors arrived before one o’clock at the San Pedro Polyclinic along with a ranger stationed at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  Several hours later, the bodies were taken by a private charter to San Pedro Town where they were pronounced dead on arrival. This afternoon they were transferred by skiff to Belize City by the San Pedro police News Five spoke with Corporal Sharmane Young who is heading the investigation.
Sharmane Young, Corporal, Tourism Police Unit
“About twelve midday I received a call from the Tourism Police officer who was conducting patrol along with the Hol Chan personnel at the Hol Chan [Marine Reserve] where they stated that they had a total of five persons at sea, you know, apparently they were about to drown over at the blue. As a result of that, the information received was that it was a total of seven persons who went snorkeling with Tsunami’s Tours and of that seven we have five rescued and we have two [who] passed away.”
Isani Cayetano
“In terms of the operation that is being conducted who is leading this mission?”
Sharmane Young
“Myself, as the person in charge of the Tourism Police [Unit] for Caye Caulker and San Pedro, and working along with the officer in charge of San Pedro; it’s going to be both of us working along on this investigation.”
Isani Cayetano
“Okay, my understanding is that a coastguard team was also dispatched to the area.
Sharmane Young
“Yes, that’s true.  We have contacted the officer in charge of the coastguard who has assisted us and both bodies, the first body was recovered at 12:30 and the other one was recovered [sometime later].  The first body that was recovered was a female French national and the other person was an American national by the name of Roger Burgess.”
Isani Cayetano
“What is the preliminary investigation saying at this point? Was it mechanical failure of some sort, equipment failure? What were the rescued tourists saying?”
Sharmane Young
“No. What happened is that these people were already in the water snorkeling at Hol Chan and apparently the current, they were swimming to the blue and the current was too strong and they started drifting away.”
The five surviving visitors have been identified as  American nationals fifty-five year old Rebecca Burger and seventeen year old Zach Burger, Canadian nationals twenty-five old Lawrence Tastet and  twenty- year-old Yanik Doyon and Italian national fifty-nine year old David Florencia.
CH5

Police On Manhunt For Teenager Who's Allegedly Stolen
Two Cops Guns
Tonight, the small village of Caye Caulker is like a tinder box - tensions between police and criminal elements are running very high - and a special police detachment is combing Caye Caulker - looking for a 17 year old - who allegedly shot an officer in the head yesterday evening.
That officer, PC John Valerio survived because the bullet only grazed him. But it could have been fatal - and the suspect allegedly took the officers service revolver after shooting him. And tonight, police have closed in on that small island because that same 17 year old is accused of stealing another officer's gun on Sunday morning. And after stealing it, he allegedly pointed it at the officer's head, but it did not fire because the safety was on.
So, tonight, this 17 year old is believed to have two weapons, and police say he is still hiding out on the island.
Monica Bodden went out to Caye Caulker today - and she has this story:
Monica Bodden Reporting
The shooting happened here at the airstrip in Caye Caulker village. 17 year old Ernesto Bernardez went inside this Maya Island Air office to book a flight en route to Belize City.
He was a wanted man by police for the robbery of a 9mm pistol belonging to a police officer - which took place on Sunday night.
But while about to catch his 5:30 flight off the island yesterday evening - he was approached by Police Officer John Valerio.
Voice of: Employee of Maya Island Air
"He arrived here at the office exactly 5 o'clock and he wanted to board a flight to go to the city. Our last flight is at 5:20, so I was able to get him on that flight and he gave me the money for the flight. And while processing the ticket, he was really nervous. He then stepped outside, and while I was processing the ticket, right between 5:00 - 5:15 he went around the building going back up north, and within a minute or so we heard the first gun shot."
According to this employee of Maya Island Air, Bernardez was acting suspicious and even gave her a wrong name for his ticket information.
When the young man stepped outside the office - gunshots were heard shortly after - two shots to be precise.
Voice of: Employee of Maya Island Air
"The man tell him and said, 'You heard a gunshot?', and then he ran outside, I ask him to look at where the guy went, and then we heard the other gun shot, and we ran to the corner of the building and police came to our direction that was shot, said I just got shot, the young man shot me.
Monica Bodden
"And he was bleeding?"
Voice of: Employee of Maya Island Air
"Yes he was bleeding from his head, but he was conscious and talking and so he asked for help. My companion took him to the health center in the golf cart."
It is said that 39 year old Police Constable John Valerio - who is attached to the Caye Caulker Police Sub Station met Bernardez at the entrance of the airstrip where the officer stopped and searched him. While doing so, the 17 year old Bernardez managed to take hold of PC Valerio's revolver and as a result shot him twice, one to the left side of his head. He then fled the scene in these nearby bushes.
Residents of the small island are still left in disbelief at the brazen crime committed by this 17 year old.
A manhunt continues in Caye Caulker Village, as police try to locate Ernesto Bernardez who is still armed with both police officers shotguns -He is classified as armed and dangerous.
Coastguard boats are patrolling the waters as police has launched a major operation on the island especially in the south end where he is believe to be hiding in the bushes.
PC Valerio has been treated at the KHMH and released. His injuries were classified as wounding by a medical doctor.
And while that story detailed what happened yesterday - it was all preceded by what happened early on Sunday morning in Caye Caulker. Bernardez allegedly stole a nine mm pistol from another police officer.
According to police, the officer approached Bernardez in connection with an ongoing investigation. They started to fight and Bernardez got a hold of the officer's personal 9mm service revolver pointed it at the officer and attempted to shoot him.
Reportedly, the officer had his weapon on safe it did not fire. Bernardez then struck the officer on the head with the firearm and ran off with the gun.
Intensive sea and land patrols are being conducted by the A.D.U., and Coast guard. According to police, Bernardez, resides at San Pedrito Area, San Pedro Town or Gungulung in the Martin's Area of Belize City.
CH7
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