On September 24, 52-year-old Linda Linan from Orlando, Florida, was on a cave tubing excursion run by Bel-Cruise, a local Belizean outfitter, when strong currents reportedly capsized her inner tube, causing her to drown. Other companies had canceled their excursions that day due to the dangerous water levels. Linan was on a seven-night cruise on Carnival Glory.
In response to this tragedy, new mandatory policies to be instated include:
Companies must have one guide for every eight participants.
Cave tubing locations must post signs with information about park rules, water conditions and any applicable warnings.
Stricter scheduling of tours will be enforced. Specifically, three groups of eight (and their guides) will be allowed entrance into the cave every 10 minutes. The staggered entry system will limit the number of people in the cave at any given time.
Every cave tubing guide must receive special training.
All participants will be required to wear helmets (effective January 1, 2009).
In addition, NICH will employ more monitoring equipment to measure currents, water levels and other cave conditions in order to enhance the safety of cave-tubing visitors. Based on the information collected, the NICH in conjunction with the Institute of Archeology (the department that manages the park) will decide when to close the cave system to tour groups.
Carnival suspended future sales of the Bel-Cruise excursion pending further investigation; at this point, we have not been alerted to any change in status. We'll keep you posted.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor