Tourist drowns while snorkeling at Hol Chan

By Ingrid Fernandez/ Staff Journalist

An American tourist died while on a snorkeling tour at Hol Chan Marine Reserve this week, making him the third American to die while on vacation in the country in three months.

Jeffrye Thomas Bartl, 58, his brother and two other friends were on a snorkeling tour with Ambergis Divers tour guide, Alfredo Trejo on Monday when he experienced trouble while snorkeling.

Trejo said about 15 minutes into the snorkeling trip, they noticed that Bartl was not responding to the guide’s calls and his head was submerged in the water.

Trejo immediately swam to him to assist him and found that he was not breathing. The park ranger was called for assistance and at that point they proceeded to perform CPR on Bartl while he was being transported to the Dr. Otto Rodriguez Poly Clinic in San Pedro Town.

Upon reaching the clinic, Bartl was pronounced dead on arrival at 10:00 a.m. The body was then transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) where a post-mortem examination certified the cause of death as “asphyxia due to drowning”.

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) also issued a statement acknowledging Bartl’s death. The BTB said it is gathering all the details to understand the “unfortunate incident” and would be communicating further when more information became available.

Minister of Tourism Manuel Herdia Jr. said he is very concerned about the occurrences. He said that precautionary measures need to be taken into account to avoid more accidents of this nature.

He assured that he would be taking the initiative to speak with all tourism stakeholders regarding the safety of tourists. Heredia said new measures need to be put in place such as asking tourists, especially elderly ones, to declare any medical ailments and to provide tour operators with a medical card. Heredia said such safeguards would help to protect the country’s image.

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