By Marion V. Ali
Ralston Patnett, 51, a veteran fireman, met his death around midnight on Monday, by the very thing he spent his life fighting – fire. It was deliberately set, after someone shot him inside his car.
The incident occurred in a remote area of Dangriga, a stone’s throw away from the Commerce Bight Pier, outside a posh beachfront property, belonging to an American.
The red Camry which Patnett drove before the incident, was so badly burnt, that its colour changed to an ash grey. When found, it was riddled with mutiple bullet holes. Patnett’s charred remains were found in the driver’s seat and with a bullet wound to the head.
Officer commanding the Dangriga Police Formation, Superintendent Roy Joseph, said someone called the police station around midnight to report a vehicle fire in the Commerce Bight area. When they arrived at the scene, the blaze had already consumed the car and burnt Patnett.
The property, which Patnett had left on Sunday evening, was not burglarized, and the few people who live in the vicinity, said they didn’t hear or see anything odd around the time of the murder/arson.
It is rumored that the owner had reportedly come under threat over the property he had purchased, and had become the subject of racial attacks.
Joseph told The Reporter this week that police have recovered a couple expended shells from the scene and they are looking for “persons of interest”. They also expect to make an arrest very soon.
Patnett had applied in February of this year to be placed on early retirement from the National Fire Service for health reasons. He started his career with the service in Belize City in April, 1984 and was transferred to Orange Walk in 2000 as the officer in charge there until 2011.
He was then transferred to Dangriga as the officer in charge, until February of this year when ill-health prevented him from carrying out his duties.
He will receive a ‘Fireman’s Funeral’, which means his casket will be transported by a fire truck during the funeral. The Fire Department will also assist the family with funeral arrangements.