It’s been well reported that at least a dozen Americans have died in the Dominican Republic over the past several months and, understandably, tourism to the Caribbean island has plummeted.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only place where touring Americans may be in danger…
A prominent physician from Roanoke, VA who was on vacation in Belize was shot to death with his tour guide this past weekend.
Gary Swank, age 53, was a well-known cardiologist at Carilion Clinic. According to the San Pedro Sun, on Sunday, June 23rd, the bodies of Swank and his tour guide, Belize resident Mario Nestle Jr. were found by the San Pedro Police. They were face down in a lagoon, about 30 feet from the skiff from which they had been fly fishing. Both had multiple apparent gunshot wounds on their bodies.
Initial police investigation revealed that about 10:00 a.m. that morning, Swank and Nestle had gone fly fishing within the San Pedro Town lagoon, when a dark color skiff passed by and opened fire on the boat.
The two lifeless bodies were transported to the San Pedro Polyclinic where the two men were were pronounced dead.The bodies were later transported to the Belize City morgue where they await a post mortem examination. Authorities are investigating in incident.
The U.S. government has different levels of travel advisories for foreign countries and Belize is listed as a Level 2, which means to exercise increased caution:
Exercise increased caution in Belize due to crime.
Violent crime – such as sexual assault, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder – are common even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. A significant portion of violent crime is gang-related. Due to high crime travelers are advised to exercise caution while traveling to the south side of Belize City. Local police lack the resources and training to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Most crimes remain unresolved and unprosecuted.
Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
If you decide to travel to Belize:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Avoid walking or driving at night.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
- Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for Belize.
- U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
As of this writing, the latest alert for Belize was from March, 2019. Hopefully Dr. Swank’s death, although tragic, will be a one time thing and not turn into incident after incident.
Meanwhile, should you have plans to go to Belize, please take the utmost of precautions.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary