By Ingrid Fernandez
A 67-year-old American tourist vacationing in Belize drowned while snorkeling with her family on Thursday morning at Sergeants Caye, reports say.
Queen Street police received the body of Janice Mittelstadt, a South Dakota resident, at the Radisson Pier after she was rushed from the island by boat.
According to Superintendent Walberto Garcia, Officer Commanding the Tourism Police Unit (TPU), when police arrived at the pier, officers found Mittelstadt’s lifeless body near the sea side. People were performing CPR on her but she was apparently already dead.
Mittelstadt arrived in Belize on the Caribbean Princess ship of the Princess Cruise Lines accompanied by family, and was picked up by the Hue Barclays tour company.
According to police, when Mittlestadt was snorkeling, she disappeared under the water and when she was found, she was already unconscious. She received medical attention on the island and was then transported to the mainland.
Her body is currently at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) where a post-mortem examination is expected within two days, Garcia said.
He added that because of the frequency with which these accidents have been happening in the tourism industry, the TPU is starting a discussion with the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) to prevent disastrous occurrences from happening.
Based on the age pattern of drowning victims, Garcia said, there should be an age limit considered for people to participate in certain activites. Any such policy, of course, would have to be decided by tourism stakeholders, including the BTB and respective cruiselines.
Karen Pike, BTB director of Marketing and Industrial Relations, said the Board extends its condolences to the Mittlestadt family but could not reveal any details about the accident as the police investigation is on-going.
Pike reiterated the BTB’s commitment to work towards developing measures to prevent accidents involving tourists visiting Belize.