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January 2007 Vol. 33, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Belize Divemaster Gets Away With Diver's Death

from the January, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In October 2005, divemaster Vance Cabral, owner of Advanced Diving, and his employee Mark Anthony Tucker took 10 tourists from Placencia on an ill-fated dive trip that resulted in the death of 28-year-old American Abigail Brinkman. The police say Tucker and Cabral belong in jail, but so far they havenít been able to put them there.

During the dive to Silk Caye, Cabral stayed on land with the snorkelers, but Tucker left with four divers, including Brinkman. The engine stalled and the boat started to drift. Cabral had no backup engine, no radio and, as it was later found out, no license to operate a tour. Wearing full dive gear, the divers decided to try and swim for Silk Caye while it was still within sight. Tucker said he strongly advised against it, but the divers say thatís a lie. Regardless, they paid dearly for that decision, drifting in open sea for 55 hours. When air patrol found them, 20 miles southeast of Gloverís Reef, Brinkmanóthe only one not wearing a wetsuitó had died.

Cabral was originally charged with operating without a tour operator license but those charges were later dropped. In late November, 13 months after the diving disaster, Cabral and Tucker were finally charged criminally. Cabral was arraigned on 10 counts of negligent endangerment of life while Tucker was charged on four counts. But thatís as far as it went. The magistrate struck out the charges, saying they were non-indictable matters and under the law, non-indictable charges have to be filed within six months of an incident.

But the police plan to re-file charges on both men since negligent endangerment to life can also be tried in Belizeís Supreme Court. But the maximum time in prison for that conviction is only two years. In the meantime, the Belize Tourism Board is allowing Cabral and Tucker to reapply for licenses to guide and operate tours.

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