FBI and Navy Scuba divers documented 3,167 dives to recover
230 bodies and 95% of the airplane from the worst air disaster
in U.S. history. The National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) said search and recovery efforts when TWA Flight 800
crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island
would have been impossible without these divers.
Although it's been several years since that disaster brought
worldwide attention to police scuba teams, their popularity
hasn't waned. An air disaster of this magnitude is highly
unlikely in the waters off Roatan, however, it's reassuring
to know that some of our Police are prepared if something
A Nine police officers from the Policia Nacional Preventiva
recently completed an intensive five day dive NAUI (National
Association of Underwater Instructors) scuba training course.
They received their certification documents in a ceremony
at Palmetto Bay Plantation on June 14.
scuba diving into a weapon against crime is common in coastal
cities across the United States and other nations, but it
is a new concept in Honduras. Mostly everyone agrees - except
the criminals - that a police dive team is a necessity on
an island. Being armed with scuba training will help police
in rescue and/or recovery of drowned persons, homicide victims,
evidence, boats and vehicles.
Helm, a certified advanced safety diver and instructor, taught
the two back-to-back classes at Palmetto. Although he had
hurdles of "red tape" to jump in order to gain approvals
from police officials on the mainland, the first class began
smoothly on June 2.
Helm, a NAUI instructor for 17 years, is accustomed to jumping
hurdles. About two and a half years ago, he certified 12 national
police officers on Roatan in the first police scuba course
ever held in Honduras. It took a lot of pioneering and lobbying
then also to gain approval. The resorts all chipped in with
loaned equipment and everyone passed with flying colors.
enjoyed diving for 34 years and wanted to share the beauty
of the water with others," Helm explains. "Teaching
these men has been a great experience for me. It takes away
a lot of the misconceptions about the police."
"It's good to know that in the unlikely event that an
airplane goes off the runway or there is a boat accident,
the police will be prepared with divers," says Helm.
"They can also participate in search and rescue missions."
said the police can also play a key role in protecting our
valuable reef system, especially if they see someone standing
on coral or damaging the active ecosystem.
According to Helm, the students had a refreshing appreciation
for the water after the first few dives. They were already
good swimmers and extremely excited about diving.
their first open water dive, several remarked about the warmth,
clarity and beauty of the water. A couple of them said they
were surprised to hear themselves breathing under the water.
"This is something I never thought I would do,"
says Mauro Flores, police inspector, before gearing up for
the afternoon session. "I was a little frightened at
first, but then I began liking it."
two years in Roatan, Hector Sales now understands why tourists
from all over the world come here to dive our reefs and see
the fish. He notes that he will continue with scuba now that
he knows what it is like.
Benjamin Ordoñez, the scuba course has added new confidence.
He said he has had to board a boat before, but now he will
be more willing to jump into the water and chase someone.
Helm speaks only English and the officers speak Spanish, language
wasn't a barrier to their learning. Helm purchased NAUI Spanish
books and restaurant manager Cecelia Mendez, who is also an
instructor, translated all the lessons. They all had homework
Most mornings were spent on book work in the restaurant area.
After lunch, they donned their gear and hit the water. After
becoming comfortable in the resort pool, then the beach, they
graduated to boat dives.
took cooperation from numerous people to make the course a
reality. Businesses including Coco View, Bay Islands Beach
Resort, Inn of the Last Resort, Ocean Divers, Fantasy Island
and Anthony's Key Resort loaned equipment and filled tanks.
Palmetto donated the facilities, daily lunch and beverages,
while Helm provided the books, a boat, and his time.
by Marcia Quinn-Strehlow
photos by Thomas Tomczyk
A HAND FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Harbour clinic gets a chance for a new life
French Harbour Health Clinic (FHHC) is set to receive a community
lifeline over the coming months. Since its inception in 1991,
the public clinic has been providing health care to families
in French Harbour and its surrounding areas. Over the years,
the physical condition has steadily deteriorated into its
present rundown state. Coxen Hole Midwife Bernadette Ebanks
who operates a weekly maternity ward out of the FHHC, decided
to outline the clinic's needs through a presentation at the
Roatan Ladies Luncheon. Headed by Shelley
Lynch and Susan Jensen, a group of volunteers formed with
the goal of restoring the clinic and providing them with the
means necessary to maintain a suitable working environment.
"Our plan was to first survey the clinic's needs, most
of which were very obvious and immediate," Lynch explained.
After a building audit, the primary
goals of the project were determined to be: roof replacement,
installation of toilets and a new septic tank, electricity
rewiring, air conditioning refurbishing, and the replacement
of windows, doors, light fixtures, and ceiling fans. The group
collected construction estimates and has formulated a community
fundraising strategy highlighting several events.
any work could begin at the clinic, a large-scale cleaning
was necessary. 15 volunteers gathered at the FHHC on June
7, to help wash walls, mop floors, and scrub the mold and
dirt from the clinic structure. Their efforts were rewarded
by an improved clinic appearance and also some refreshments
provided by Bormac's and Eldon's. The community support will
impact the staff of the clinic who continue to work in these
conditions every day."It's
been neglected for years and years. It's a government hospital.
I don't know what happened. There are leaks all over and the
doctor [is] having to move the cabinets and medicines because
they get wet," said dentist Marcia Welcome, who sees
7-10 patients per day at the clinic.
For two years, Dr. Jorge Figueroa served
as the clinic's sole physician, seeing 35-40 patients daily.
He requested federal funding to replace the roof two years
ago. "This is forever a problem. Things move slowly with
the government," he said. Although Dr. Luis Enceda took
over as the doctor of the FHHC a few months ago, Dr. Figueroa
continues to inquire about the funding on his own time and
expense. He added, "Unfortunately, these problems are
not unique only to this clinic."
Lynch cites that the physical renovations
are just a beginning. Many staff salaries reportedly remain
unpaid and they plan to hire a cleaning person and a night
watchman for the clinic. Additionally, supplies such as shelving,
chairs, fans, towels, and sheets are still needed. "We
will do what we can to help them meet these needs," said
Lynch, "any help from the community is really welcomed."
group of Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) students gave new
meaning to the concept of perfect attendance on Friday
when nearly 50 of them arrived at their French Harbour
school bright and early on a day when classes were canceled.
It was in the name of school spirit that they joined
Principal Norma Francis and eight SDA teachers in support
of the school's 4th Annual Walk-a-thon.
Organized by Principal Francis, the event is one of
the school's popular fundraising activities and, this
year, the proceeds will help finance their auditorium's
new ceiling. Each of the participants collected 300.00
Lps. in sponsorship pledges before embarking on the
6 km walk from the SDA school in French Harbour to the
Coxen Hole Esso Station across from the airport. The
group, comprised of 44 students ranging from grades
6-10 and three adults, began their journey under a hot
sun at 6:30am. Throughout the course, there were a total
of seven checkpoints manned by Walk-a-thon volunteers
who not only offered encouragement to the participants,
but also provided them with a tab to mark the completion
of each section. Principal Francis collected all seven
tabs from each athlete as they crossed the finish line,
where they were met with praise and applause by those
Although the primary goal was to benefit the Auditorium
Fund, there was still a competitive edge to the day.
Prizes were awarded to the top three finishes in each
of the following four categories: Primary Girls, High
School Girls, High School Boys, and Adults. First Place
winner for the High School Boys category was Elton Woods
who recorded an outstanding time of 47 minutes. "I
was able to keep a fast pace but it was hardest at the
end because I was so hot by then," said Woods.
Jennifer Lopez, a graduate this year, completed her
final SDA Walk-a-thon on top, finishing First in the
High School Girls category and explained, "It was
fun but now I just really want to sleep!"
Overall, the morning provided a backdrop for some exercise,
healthy competition, and a lot of fun, while still managing
to raise key funds for a school project.
Very Smart Book
of Smart Pages: Marcia Quinn-Strehlow and Sandra
Ever wonder exactly how many churches
are housed on this island? In need of a mechanic in
your neighborhood? Or maybe you saw a great documentary
on whale sharks and decided your life isn't complete
until you become a divemaster? The team from Bay Islands
Marketing (BIM) will introduce the "Smart Pages"
which should answer these questions.
Due out this September, the "Smart Pages"
will be a comprehensive business directory with listings
from Roatan, Utila and Guanaja.
"The Honduras commercial pages include the Bay
Islands, but lack a real specialization (...), especially
one that caters to an English market. Our whole aim
is to become a resource for everyone on the islands,
whether they're local, expats or tourists," said
BIM's Sandra Sampayo.
In early May, five local members
of the BIM team began compiling a complete list of businesses
from their communities. Sampayo explains, "Every
person who has a business in this area was canvassed.
They are [featured] in this directory." Each business
received a free listing in the directory with the option
of submitting a more substantial paid advertisement.
In total, the Smart Pages list 230 different categories
of business, ranging from schools and supermarkets to
tailors and restaurants. Various listings for basic
services on the mainland will be featured in the publication.
Smart Pages tool is conceptually comparable to the Bay
Islands Map S.A. Phone Book project of 2000-01. BIM
decided early in their planning to have the Smart Pages
serve solely as a business directory and not a phone
book including residential listings. "For us, the
white pages option just wasn't viable. It would have
been prohibitively expensive and the verification process
would have been an enormous responsibility in addition
to the Smart Pages project. We never intended to reproduce
the Phone Book but to instead provide an extensive business
directory, " said Sampayo.
According to Manuel Martinez,
who worked on the 2001 Bay Islands Map S.A. Phone Book,
their company in fact has future plans to update the
phone book. "We continue to study the market but
we will again purchase the DiTel phone listing rights
to produce a new version of the white pages," said
With an initial publication of
10 000 copies, BIM opted to award their Smart Pages
contract to a printing firm out of Miami. This decision
resulted in a 40% savings from the Tegucigalpa bids,
a cost-efficiency attributed to Miami's advanced technology
in color printing. Within the Bay Islands, the directories
will be available in supermarkets, real estate offices,
at the airport, and at the electric company. Copies
will also be directed to international residency and
immigration offices in the States, as well as to American