By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
Search efforts by the Belize National Coast Guard (BNCG) for 80-year-old San Pedro businessman, Liobijildo Varela, in the area off the Port of Belize continue without much luck or any sign of Varela’s body.
According to Ensign David Ayala, BNGC on-scene search coordinator, as of Saturday afternoon the search was still underway, but Varela’s body still hasn’t been found. Ayala said the Coast Guard team conducting the search included several boats circling the area where Varela was known to fall into the sea.
According to Ayala, there have been several changes in the weather conditions over the last few days since Varela went under and the shift in currents may have caused the body to drift out. Still, Ayala said, the search will continue until they are given directives from their commander that the search party is over.
Varela was on-board his tug boat on Thursday night, traveling with cargo from San Pedro to the Belize Port along with his crew. The boat was pulling a barge into the Port but a squall, which brought a heavy downpour on them, forced them to switch course from the usual barge docking area to the Port’s pier.
Trying to avoid a collision, the crew detached the barge from the tug, fearing it would cause them to tip over, but the barge and the tugboat collided while Varela was on deck. The impact sent Varela overboard and some members of the crew said he seemed to have been injured on his way down.
The Coast Guard has been conducting a search party in the area since Friday morning.