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3 weekend fires; man dies after setting himself ablaze

Photo: Burnt home on Jane Usher Boulevard

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 4, 2023

Three fires occurred over the long Labor Day weekend — one of which partially destroyed a resort in Orange Walk, while another reportedly occurred after a taxi driver eventually died after setting himself ablaze.

On Saturday, April 29, an SUV that was parked on Pickstock Street in Belize City burst into flames, and shortly after, a 31-year-old Haitian taxi driver, Davidson Estiverne, was caught on nearby surveillance cameras running out of his car on fire. A few persons who were nearby and who saw Estiverne were able to come to his aid and reportedly extinguished the flames using their clothes.

The disturbing video quickly circulated on different media outlets via Facebook, where questions were raised as to how this fire could have occurred. It was later reported that Estiverne had actually set the fire intentionally in an attempt to end his life. According to his 18-year-old girlfriend, Estiverne had called her prior to the incident, frustrated and overwhelmed with the amount of debt he was in, and thereafter he set himself ablaze.

Unfortunately, said Kenneth Mortis, Station Supervisor of the National Fire Service after the incident, Estiverne would need costly medical attention for his fire injuries — thus compounding his debt.

“The fire department out there learned that this gentleman actually …, he tried to take his life by igniting himself and this vehicle. Now, I must tell you that suicide attempts by fire is one of the worst ways to go. You will find yourself incurring fire burns to various parts of your body in varying degrees; and you will find yourself in debt, medical wise. We all know that he mentioned to his girlfriend that he was experiencing heavy, heavy financial debt, something that he figured he just couldn’t take the burden on no more; but, truth be told, Mr. Davidson, you just now officially racked up more debt to your already extensive debt,” commented Mortis.

However, five days after being admitted to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, Estiverne reportedly succumbed to his severe burn injuries, leaving behind one child.

There was also another blaze on Sunday night that completely gutted an abandoned two-story home in Belize City. According to reports, although no one officially lived on the premises, the house was being occupied by an unknown individual. The cause of the fire, Mortis confirmed, was due to negligent use of an open flame.

“We were trying to gather information from him, but as the norm is, whenever these types of characters create these fires, they automatically vanish with the wind. So, exactly who the individual is, we have no information at this time, but we do know that this was a negligent use of an open flame,” said Mortis.

A third fire occurred in Tower Hill Village in the Orange Walk District and caused considerable damage to several of the buildings which house the Mayan Garden Resort.

Reports indicate that around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to a call from the Mayan Garden Resort, which was completely engulfed in flames.

The blaze destroyed several of the resort’s multiple structures, including buildings with thatch roofing that were on the property, leaving little that could be salvaged by the time the fire department arrived.

Notably, the structures were not insured, which is typical for buildings with thatch roofing, which generally do not qualify for coverage. It is thus being estimated that the owners suffered a whopping 5-million-dollar loss.

“We are still trying to gather the titbits to put the pieces together. Several thatch roof structures were destroyed; like rightfully mentioned, almost five million dollars’ worth. What contributed to the quick spread was that all these structures had a roof made of a grass-type structure. All of that combined with the afternoon being a windy day, the flying embers, the close proximity of all these units, even if we were on the scene before the fire started, there was little salvaging that could have been done by us. The structure alone posed as a threat to the owner,” said Mortis.

The owners of the resort were not present at the time, so it was hard to say, said Mortis, what could have caused the fire. Investigations are still ongoing.