Today we went across the lake to Panajachel with several volunteer doctors, planning to get our Thanksgiving turkey, visit a recycling center, and be tourists for a bit. We got our turkey, acted like tourists, visited the (closed) recycling center and were eating lunch when we received a call that a boat sank close to Santiago and we need to get back pronto.
Over a thousand people travel by boat every day on the lake, and I had never heard of one sinking. The ride to Pana was actually pretty rough, and several of the doctors were worried but I thought this was normal, and nothing to be scared of. The ride back to Santiago was the tensest trip I’d ever taken. Every time we crested a wave and crashed into the next one we all held our breath. Traci and I were praying just about the whole way home, clinging to each other when the front of the boat would shake to one side or the other. We had a private boat for 5 of us, and we all had lifejackets so we were much safer than many of the other boats still out on the lake, but even so it was an anxious 30 minutes for us all.
By the time we made it back to Santiago, hundreds of people were crowding the boat dock, and the hospital. The doctors went right to work but Traci and I could only stand back and hear the bad news. All the details aren’t figured out yet, but it seems the boat was rather full and hit a wave that flooded in and sank the boat. There were three fatalities, including an elderly French man whose wife is now in stable condition in the capital.
Having this happen really shook everyone up here- it’s the first time a small public boat has ever sunk according to the hospital administrator. I think traveling in bad wind has been so routine it’s been taken for granted that nothing bad will ever happen. It’s terrifying to think that WE could have been in that boat coming home from Pana. We have recommitted ourselves to being safe here- which now means avoiding the lake on windy days.
Please keep the people that were on that boat, and their families in your prayers.