US students drowns while on field trip to Belize

By
Updated: February 15, 2016

A 14 year old US student died in Belize over the weekend. Tomari Aliijah Jackson, a freshman at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia, USA, is believed to have drowned near Tiger Sandy Bay in Rural Belize.

Hipolito Novelo reporting…

“Fourteen year old Tomari Alijah Jackson was one of thirty two students and six chaperones from North Cobb High School who travelled to Belize on an educational trip.

Matthew Miller, Managing Director, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

“This is the fourth year that North Cobb High School, near Atlanta Georgia has visited Belize. The primary purpose is to do service work at one of our local primary schools to learn about the geography and the environment of Belize and to have a cultural exchange within a seven day period.”

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“Saturday was the group first day in Belize. It was decided that the group would travel to neighboring Tiger Sandy bay for a quick swim in the Sibun River.

Matthew Miller, Managing Director, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

“When we reached the riverside we showed everybody the swimming area and we posted chaperones and guides at the bottom of the swimming area downstream and at the top of the swimming area so  we had coverage in between the areas where the students would be entering the water and they were swimming there for maybe 45 minutes to an hour and 5pm came around and we began to announce to the group, half of them in the water and half of them on the beach that it was about time to go.

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

At around 5 o’clock the group was preparing to leave when they realized that Jackson was missing.

Matthew Miller, Managing Director, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

“That’s when we put out an immediate search party, the students remained on the bus, the tour guides and chaperons began returning to the river side, we began calling his name and in pairs we began searching the roads of the farm that lead to the swimming site. When we couldn’t locate him we immediately called the Belize Police. We set up a communication center in Monkey Bay that was in constant contact with our group as we continued our search. We did station a man down stream at a wooden bridge about 300 meters downstream from the swim site to see if Tamari might have gone down stream. One of our guides entered the water at the bathing spot and swam that stretch down to the bridge to cover the banks and the water to look for Tamari. He was not there.

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“Police were called to help with the search. Jackson’s body was found late on Saturday night.”

Inspector Juanito Cocom, O.C., Ladyville Police

“The body was eventually discovered by two local divers in the Sibun River.”

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“Jackon’s body was fished from the Sibun River at around 1 o’clock on Sunday morning by divers of the Belize Coast Guard.”

Elton Bennett, Vice Commander, Belize Coast Guard

“Sometime around 6 pm on the 13th of February, we received information from the Police Department that one person was apparently missing from a group of about 32 and at that time they couldn’t confirm if the person was in the water or if he was lost on land. We received confirmation sometime around 11pm that night. We deployed from here immediately and we arrived at the location sometime around 11:45. The divers assessed the situation, looked at where the location was marked from the search party early on in the day and they decided that they could do the dive even though it was at night and the currents were strong. They conducted the dive and retrieved the body of the young man sometime around 1:30 that morning.”

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“Tell us about the location where his body was found; was it far from where they original were.”

Elton Bennett, Vice Commander, Belize Coast Guard

“It was just a few yards upstream from where they were. He was recovered in about fifteen feet of water. When his body was recovered he still had on his goggles on his face so he was in the water doing some swimming or diving. The rescue operation was very quick and the location was marked from the search party so all the Coast Guard did was to arrive at the scene, conduct the dive and recover the body.”

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“Today, Cobb County School District Superintendent, Chris Ragsdale issued a statement in which he said quote, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of this talented North Cobb High School scholar and musician… Our immediate priority at this time is caring for and supporting his family and all the students, families, and school staff impacted by this tragic event”, end of quote.

 

Matthew Miller, Managing Director, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

“ I believe there was no one at fault, all the procedures were followed, there was the briefing with the group. Tamari was  a 14 year old student. He had a consent form signed by his mother that he was prepared to swim, there was no medical conditions, he was with the group, all eyes were on the group. Tamari had a GoPro camera and swimming goggles that he was wearing and he was going under the water to look and to film we assume and at some point he did not come up.”

Hipolito Novelo – Reporter

“A post mortem concluded that Jackson died as result of accidental drowning.”