The news spread like wildfire, and the initial shock of word that the private plane of Mr. Barry Bowen had gone down in the marshes of Ambergris Caye was enough to cause everything to come to a standstill on the island, with everybody waiting to hear the outcome of the accident.
On Friday evening, February 26, 2010, after taking off from Belize City, businessman Sir Barry Bowen and his passengers were heading to San Pedro to take part in a fundraiser for his private Island Academy School. Bowen was accompanied by the principal of Gallon Jug School and his family. Michael and Jillian Casey (both 32) and their two children, three-year-old Makayla and seven month old Bryce, were also killed along with Bowen in the DFC area of San Pablo along the path to the airport.
After confirmation came that it was Sir Barry Bowen who had perished in the plane crash, hundreds, if not thousands, flocked to the site of the accident to witness the devastation first hand. Barry is known throughout Belize and very much loved and looked up to in San Pedro which he called home.
Ambergris Today was one of the first at the scene where one eyewitness explained what she saw: “I looked out the window of my house and saw the plane flying really low, unusually low above this area as the airstrip is further north.”
According to the eye witness, it did not seem as if the plane was experiencing any mechanical problems as she did not see or hear anything unusual from the plane. It eventually hit a building which was under construction in which at that point lost its wings and crashed nearby – close to Captain Shark’s Boat Yard.
And it was the workers at the boat yard who rushed to the downed aircraft to render assistance to those on board. To their dismay, there was nothing much that they could do as scene of the accident was of total morbidness. The rescue attempts immediately turned to a salvage operation as police and volunteers arrived to the scene to recover the bodies.
Passengers, Jill and Michael Casey are from Albany New York. They got married in Gallon Jug four years ago and were both teachers at the Gallon Jug Community School. Michael was the principal of the school, and Jillian Casey taught third and fourth grades. Their bodies were flown to the Unites States for burial. The school in Gallon Jug will be renamed in their honor.
Gallon Jug was one of Bowen’s ventures in a vast business Empire which include the soft drink company Bowen and Bowen (which sells Coca Cola, Sprits, Fanta), Belikin Beer, Lighthouse Beer, Guinness Stout, Crystal bottled water and juices, Gallon Jug Coffee and a shrimp farm. Sir Barry’s importance and prominence as a businessman, developer, bottling magnate and Belizean is significant to the country of Belize. He was one of Belize’s wealthiest men, second only to billionaire Michael Ashcroft.
Then there’s the Belize Estate and Produce Company, Belize Aquaculture Limited, which also sells energy to BEL, and Gallon Jug Agro Industry which produces cattle, lumber, coffee, jams, jellies and the eco – friendly resort, Chan Chich – where Bowen also built a village and a school for his employees and their children. Bowen also managed a 130,000 acre tract of land in the Gallon Jug area which is a prime conservation zone and where hunting is not permitted. That area alone is bigger than Barbados.
Barry Bowen was 64 years old and had been a pilot for 40 years. The coastguard took in the five bodies to the morgue close to nine on Friday night. And early Saturday morning, members of the department of Civil Aviation were investigating the scene.
In addition to the Department of Civil Aviation, the International Inspectors from Cessna Corporation, the manufacturers of the aircraft and Rolls Royce, the manufacturers of the engine are also assisting with the investigation though it is not known that mechanical failures led to his death.
Sir Barry’s Memorial & Funeral
Celebrating Barry’s Life
His official name is Sir Barry Bowen since he was anointed a Knight of the British Empire by the Queen of England in 1997. But to everyone present on Monday, March 01, 2010, at Sir Barry’s Memorial Celebration of Life at the Island Academy, he was simply Barry.
All the orators, including his six children, concurred that Barry was a simple and down to earth fellow, a humble friend, caring individual, prudent entrepreneur, a candid guy, and a dad who always had it his way because he knew better.
The list of orators included Raymond Bowers, who was also the Master of Ceremonies, Hon. Manuel Heredia, Area Rep and Minister of Tourism, Dennis Woodriff, Wolfram Koehler, Johnny Grief, Henry Beissner, Shelly Stonesifer, Michael Bowen, Zander Bowen, Dustin Bowen, and Ms. Courtney Bowen.
“We are not here to morn his death, but to celebrate is life,” stated his son Michael Bowen.
In celebrating the life of Barry, we were reminded (some learned) that Barry was a prudent entrepreneur who paid attention to subtle details and orderliness. He was willing to share his secrets of success as well as share the wealth of his success and gave a lot to individuals, San Pedro and the entire country of Belize.
We learned that Barry loved to travel and was especially fond of New Orleans, Mardi Grass and a fan of the tradition of “the beads”. Yes he loved women, the form of women, but all speakers concurred that Lady Dixie was “his lady” and took 99 percent of his heart.
Johnny Grief spoke of a true friend and true lover that Barry was. “Barry loved life and life loved Barry; Barry Loved Belize and Belize loved Barry; Barry Loved San Pedro and San Pedro Loved Barry…Barry was a loss to the whole country of Belize.”
One thing Barry loved was fishing and though not the luckiest of fishermen, he has a record to be broken and he always remained optimistic that the next bite would be that of a 400-pound marlin.
All his children made mention that Barry was at times a difficult dad to live with both at home and in the workplace because he only knew one way of doing things and it was his way. And even if his children’s theories proved to be successful, Barry still felt his way was a better way. “But he made us become better persons and we shall make him proud of our lives, our family and in business,” commented his son Zander Bowen. “He wanted us to find the best within ourselves.”
At Barry’s memorial there was a lot of recollection and anecdotes of his life and principles; there was laughter and applause, tears and affection, hugs and condolences, and there were flowers to continue the Hawaiian party to be put on by the Island Academy the very evening of Barry’s tragic accident.
Barry loved to party and in his honor, Dixie and family offered wine, food and good Belizean Belikin Beer in his honor. Hundreds of persons attended the memorial and mingled about before and afterwards to chit chat anecdotes about the life of Sir Barry Bowen, September 19, 1945 to February 26, 2010. And as they say in England, “Long Live the King”, we all say, “Long Live Barry.”
The funeral of the late Sir Barry Bowen took place on Tuesday, March 2, at 10:00a.m. at the St. John’s Cathedral on Albert Street in Belize City. His coffin was transported by the Belize Defense Force Hearst from Belize City to the San Ignacio Cemetery were his body was laid to rest and the official wreath laying and graveside honors were bestowed.
Funeral pictures provided by Channel 5