Howard man reported killed during hurricane in Belize

FDA employee had gone on diving trip with club

October 11, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A Howard County man who worked for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for 29 years was among the 17 people on a Virginia diving club trip killed in Belize when their boat capsized Monday night during Hurricane Iris.

Raymond Mars, 52, of Scaggsville had joined the Richmond Diving Club a year ago after meeting several members on a dive trip in the Turks and Caicos Islands, said his wife, Teresa Mars.

His wife said he wasn't skittish about the diving trip despite last month's terrorist attacks. "I was a little bit scared for him to go, but I didn't think that it would be something like this," she said.

College sweethearts who met at Purdue University in Indiana, the Marses had been married 33 years and have one son, Raymond Jr.

Teresa Mars said her husband called around 9 a.m. Monday from the boat. "He said the storm was coming, and they were going to go to a safe port, where they always go to ride out the storm," she said. "That's the last I heard from him."

Monday night, she said, she watched the Weather Channel and knew her husband might be in danger. Around 5 a.m. Tuesday, someone from the Richmond Dive Club called to say he wasn't among the survivors.

Official confirmation of her husband's death came from the State Department, she said.

"He was a very strong, very capable, very intelligent, very kind and very able person," Teresa Mars said. "If there was any way to have survived, I think he would have. I really believe that."

Teresa Mars said she has heard conflicting stories of what happened.

"It's horrible," she said. "First they said a surge came up where they were aboard and lifted the boat upside down and turned it down. Now they're saying a tugboat broke loose from its moorings and slammed into it, and that lifted it up and turned it over. It's just like a nightmare that gets worse every minute."

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