Hope, prayers, support of the community and the memory of a beautiful life is what keeps the Varela family together this week after the tragic disappearance of 80-year-old Leovijildo ‘Leoli’ Varela last week Thursday, June 25, 2015. This week the search for his body lost at sea has been suspended and the Varela family mourns and plans to celebrate/commemorate his life in a special mass this coming weekend.
Both search efforts by the Belize National Coast Guard and that of the family for Mr. Varela’s body concluded by Sunday, June 28, after all means available were exhausted in hopes of finding him alive. Today, Mr. Varela is presumed dead after an accident on his barge service caused him to get lost at sea.
Leovijildo Varela was the owner of Varela's Cargo Services Ltd. a barge company that provided service between San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and Belize City. He was on-board his tug boat on Thursday, June 25, traveling with cargo late at night from San Pedro to the Belize Port with his crew. The weather conditions that evening were less than favourable with high winds, choppy seas and heavy rains and while the tugboat was pulling the barge into the Port a strong squall diverted the boat’s course into the Port.
The boat crew tried to avoid a collision onto the pier by detaching the barge from the tug as they were also afraid of tipping over. In the process, the tugboat collided with the barge while Mr. Varela was on deck. The impact sent him overboard, and some of the crew said that he seemed to have been injured as he fell into the water. Since then, search efforts have been futile as authorities indicate that there have been several changes in the weather conditions over the past few days. It is believed that shifts in currents may have caused the body to drift out to sea.
Family members indicate that they are planning a memorial service for Mr. Varela, but details are in the planning stages and will be announced shortly, more likely taking place this weekend. They say that despite the lack of a body and the circumstances, all the support from family and friends has been really humbly uplifting and appreciated.
Leoli was a man of the sea all his life. He was a fisherman for many years. Ironically he operated his own boat known as “La Perdida”, with an adventurous crew comprised of Edwardo ‘Toto’Brown, San Vasquez (+), Daniel Dawson, among others. He then moved on to become a businessman in the cargo transportation business. The Ema V. has long been known in the history of San Pedro a major cargo shipping line which offered passenger service as well. Leoli has been a cornerstone in San Pedro and is the epitome of hard work, honesty, dedication and fine family living. Mr. Varela will be sadly missed by a large family which includes children, in-laws, grand and great grand children, as well as a community at large.