|Wave Dancer Crew
The first of two Belizean crewmembers who perished while aboard the dive boat Wave Dancer was buried this past Thursday in Corozal. Eloisa Johnson, the boat's cook, died with nineteen others on Monday night when the Wave Dancer capsized in the port of Big Creek while trying to ride out Hurricane Iris.
One member of the boat's crew tells News 5 that even though the Belizeans wanted to seek shelter inland, the captain told them that if they left, they would be fired. Angela Luk, the assistant cook, decided that her life was worth more than her job and walked away...but couldn't convince the others to go with her.
"I don't think you should worry about comfort and those things when the hurricane coming directly to you. You should just run for your life," said Angela Luk, Assistant Cook, Wave Dancer.
That's exactly what twenty-five year old Angela Luk did on Monday night. Luk had been employed as the relief assistant cook aboard the dive boat Wave Dancer since May of this year. The passengers and crew were moored at Lighthouse Reef on Sunday, when they first got wind that there was a hurricane watch in effect for Belize.
"From Sunday night, we went to bed already about nine o'clock and one of the crewmembers came to knock on our door and he said: You guys need to go to the kitchen and secure everything. We might leave tonight, either to Big Creek or Belize City. At that time, there was drinking already, having fun, joking around, like nothing is happening around," said Angela.
But early Monday morning, instead of heading for Belize City, the captain, identified only as Philip, steered the boat south, heading for the deep water port of Big Creek to wait the storm out. The passengers trusted the captain's judgement but the decision did not sit well with the Belizean crew.
It took them seven hours from Lighthouse to Big Creek, it took us about seven hours and, according to Angela, the captain did not want any of the staff to get off. So he was not going to let anyone off, as he would not have anybody to cook and clean the cabins. The captain told the guests that Big Creek is a very safe place and the only thing you will feel is a little bit of breeze.
When the Wave Dancer docked at Big Creek, the twenty passengers were happy to see the other members of their group from Richmond, Virginia aboard the Belize Aggressor, which had also decided to seek shelter in the south. Luk says the passengers opted to stay aboard, enjoying the company of friends, but she had already planned to go to Belmopan.
"The boat docked at Big Creek by the port about little bit after three o'clock and then my boyfriend arrived and I left," said Angela. "Before I left, I went to inform the second captain first. I said, "I'm sorry, the hurricane is coming directly to us and I'm not going to stay on the boat and risk my life." He told me, "You cannot leave, you still have a job to do." I said, "I'm sorry I'm still going for my life." Then I went to the captain and I told him the same thing and he said, "If you go, you're not coming back." I said, "That's fine, I'm still going. I'm not going to be stupid and stay on the boat and risk my life."
Luk says the other crewmembers were confused and worried as they checked in with their families. She says she tried to convince the others to leave with her, but in the end, no one else came ashore.
"They were really worried, they were crying and they were confused," stated Angela. "They didn't know if they should go home. But they decided to stay."
The crew that stayed behind included cook Eloisa Johnson. The Belizean survivors included dive master Bart Stanley, and another crewmember named Chico. Funeral services for Brenda Wade were expected to take place on Friday. Captain Philip Martin and owner Peter Hughes of Wave Dancer were in Big Creek today and could not be reached for comment.
Channel 5 Belize
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