Photo: Top row (l-r) Christian Lobos, Ian Harrison and Mattias Gonzalez; Bottom: Noel Pineda (left) and badly mangled pickup
by Charles Gladden
GEORGEVILLE, Cayo District, Thurs. Nov. 30, 2023
Another major road traffic accident has occurred in the country, this time in the west, and it claimed the lives of four construction workers – Matias Gonzalez, 47, and Christian Lobos, 21, both of Santiago Juan Layout San Ignacio Town; and Ian Harrison Mahler, 41, and Noel Pineda of Belmopan.
Three other men: Melvin Ramos, 29, Eric Delgado, 24, and Ostocio Garcia, 54, all from San Ignacio Town, who were along with the four deceased, survived with injuries of varying degrees.
Police reports suggest that on Wednesday, November 29, at around 6:00 p.m., the men were heading to their respective homes in an Isuzu Amigo, with Pineda at the wheel, after a day of work at the Roaring River Golf Course in Camalote.
While en route to Santa Elena Town, they encountered a Dodge Ram coming from the opposite direction, in Georgeville, near Mile 62 on the George Price Highway. The driver of the Dodge Ram, 50-year-old Alejandro Hernandez, a construction worker of Spanish Lookout, reportedly overtook a vehicle that was in front of him, but was unable to get back into his lane in time, and his vehicle collided head-on with the Isuzu Amigo.
The Isuzu Amigo was flung off the highway onto the side of the road and suffered extensive damage, which included its roof being completely ripped off. Police reports say that when authorities arrived at the scene they witnessed a motionless Pineda behind the wheel, apparently dead; Mahler and Lobos in the backseat were dead as well, and Gonzalez perished moments later. The other three men received non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to the San Ignacio Community Hospital for medical treatment.
“To be honest, I have no words, and I hope justice is done this time … so many people are driving like that, and [the police] don’t do anything,” said common-law-wife of the deceased Pineda, Tamaris Ayala.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Hilberto Romero, Regional Commander of the Belize Police Department’s Eastern Division, told members of the media that cops had detained Hernandez and urine samples had been obtained, which will be tested to determine whether he was under the influence of a substance.
He said that Hernandez could face several charges – manslaughter by negligence and driving without due care and attention – which are the maximum charges that can be levied.
Amandala notes that over five days, nine lives were lost as a result of road traffic accidents. It began on Saturday with the death of four Roaring Creek men. Then on Tuesday, a teen from northern Belize lost his life in a motorcycle accident. And now the four men mentioned above.
ACP Romero noted that the department is placing checkpoints along the highway in an attempt to discourage drivers from driving recklessly.
“We have our checkpoints up, and we are currently working on putting other checkpoints along the highway again to discourage drivers from this issue of reckless driving. Again, we encourage drivers to exercise extreme caution. Yesterday it was raining hard, so these [people] should be more [cautious]. Ensure that you have a clear path when overtaking, because that seems to be the issue here that led to this accident,” he said.
Hernandez was driving alone, said ACP Romero.