Boat Rams Another, Killing Three
The Potential Negligent Homicide Escalates Tensions between Helene Island residents and Barbaret workers

July 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] A day trip for 14 Saint Helena men and teenagers to hunt Barbaret Iguanas and dive for lobster ends in tragedy. On June 20, after being chased by Barbaret security guards away from the North Side of the island the 14 men got in their 18′ boat, circled the island to the south where a more powerful, bigger boat ‘Sea Fox’ steered by Barbaret security man Esmelin Paz rammed them.

According to Wally Bodden, Santos Guardiola Councilman from Saint Helene and owner of the sunken boat, Esmelin Paz was waiting in ambush for the boat filled with passengers just past the eastern tip of the island. Paz’s boat rammed into the Helene boat with such an impact that it broke away a seven foot chunk of the boat, sunk it and flipped the ‘Sea Fox.’ Helenian Karoll Bowman died on impact, Tracy Dilbert was knocked unconscious and in the ensuing chaos, drowned.

According to Esmelin Paz, their boat was trying to stop the Helen boat for iguana inspection and it was the Helene boat who rammed them. DGIC has made preliminary inspection of the ‘Sea Fox’ and the boat suffered damage only to its front making it unlikely to be rammed from the side.

While the 18′ boat sunk, most of the men were picked up by a small Saint Helene fishing boat that was in the vicinity. The three, and according to some witnesses four, Barbaret security men swam back to Barbaret and according to witnesses fired their weapons in the air. Esmelin Paz claims to have helped some of the Helena men out of the water and denies firing any weapons.

Bodies of Bowman, Dilbert and three seriously wounded men were brought in to the Alternative Missions clinic on Saint Helene around 1pm. “There was little we could do for them,” said Larry Benson, director of the Helene Clinic. The three seriously wounded men, Luckie McKenzie, Gary McLaughlin and Jovie Bodden, were transported via boat and car to Woods Clinic in Coxen Hole and flown on a chartered plane to La Ceiba’s D’Antoni Hospital. Later in the day, McKenzie died. McLaughlin remains in a coma and Jovie Bodden is at risk of losing his eye.

When the news of the attack arrived on Saint Helene, anger at the perpetrators was ready to spill over. “If it wasn’t for me the place [Barbaret] would have been burned down and people lynched,” said Wally Bodden. Preventiva Police showed-up in the evening, arresting three of the Barbaret security guards: Esmelin Paz, his brother Gleny Paz and cousin Olman Paz. Within hours the entire staff and workers of Barberat, 60 people, were evacuated to French Harbour. Around 20 Paz family members returned to Santa Barbara.
Esmelin Paz has a history of confrontational behavior with locals. Adversarial relationships between Esmelin Paz and locals escalated from time to time as some Saint Helena men came to Barbaret to hunt iguanas and pick coconuts. In the last month alone several Helene youths were arrested by Esmelin Paz, their arms tied and kept on the island for over a day. “We always had had an attitude of protecting the iguana. Once we caught five men with 29 iguanas and turned them in to Oak Ridge police,” said Esmelin Paz.

Esmelin Paz moved 12 years ago to Barbaret from Santa Barbara and was reported by Helene community members on several occasions to the police and his previous employer and owner of Barbaret -Peter Townsmire.

Over the last two years Esmelin Paz worked as a security guard for Kelcy Warren, an American Billionaire who purchased majority of Barbaret from Peter Townsmire in 2005 to build his holiday home there.

With all the Barbaret workers hailing from the ladino community on the mainland, many Saint Helene people feel left out from the development boom on the island. While Townsmire emploid several Saint Heleneans, Warren has not hired a single employee from an island less than two miles away. “Kelcy should have come and met with the people on Saint Helene,” said Wally Bodden.

“I don’t accuse Kelcy, but the management of Barbaret,” said Wally Bodden who also sees fault with BICA’s iguana and green turtle protection efforts that ignored local traditions and sensibilities. “They just can’t impose this [iguana protection] laws. This is our culture,” said Wally Bodden.

The sad thing is that the violent confrontation was predicted by several people in the community, yet little was done to prevent it. Wally Bodden said that he expressed his concern to Congressman Jerry Hynds and Governor Arlie Thompson as recently as a month before the incident. “I said ‘you need to do something about this. He [Chilie] is going to kill someone,'” said Wally Bodden. According to Governot Thompson the responsibility of resolving this matter lay with Santos Guardiola authorities.

Wally Bodden sees the three deaths as a result of neglect of the Saint Helene community: local politicians not addressing a growing conflict, Barbaret management’s inability to engage local community and overzealous efforts of BICA at protecting iguanas and green turtles without taking into account the sensibilities of the local community. “We are the dump place of the island. We are forgotten,” said Wally Bodden. [/private]

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