A man has been killed after his own yacht suffered a major fire in the Caribbean. The Brit was found on a life raft, which had also been partially destroyed by the blaze, off the island of St Vincent on Wednesday afternoon, and was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital. Police suspect foul play and have set up a murder investigation that begins with the hunt for his wife, who reportedly flew with him to St Vincent on January 19.
Reports name the 53-year-old victim as John Garner, who suffered injuries to his legs and head before being discovered, and his wife is believed to be Heidi Hukkelaas of Norwegian residence. St Vincent Police Commissioner Michael Charles stated that investigators were looking at all lines of enquiry and vowed to leave no stone unturned as they attempt to piece together how Mr Garner met his untimely death.
His daughter (and Hukkelaas’ step-daughter) Elizabeth told reporters that the family believe Garner’s death was a tragic accident, and stated they were unaware that the incident was being treated as suspicious. “This is a shock for everybody,” she said, before explaining that Mrs Hukkelaas had left St Vincent two days before Garner was due to fly out on account of her having to look after her young children.
Smoke from the burning yacht was spotted by the crew of a diving trip at around 11:45am local time on Wednesday 26, and John Garner’s body was realised upon closer inspection of the wreckage. Diver Kay Wilson, who was on the trip at the time, described how the yacht blaze in the Caribbean had been “raised to the water line” by the time they arrived, and that the manner in which Brit Garner had been killed suggested it was accidental. The fact that the captain was able to scramble a life raft and escape the burning vessel points to some sort of unintentional mishap that caused such disastrous circumstances, and didn’t seem to be man-made with the aim of taking his life. The yacht, supposedly named Asante and registered in Gibraltar, was around 4 miles offshore when it was found according to Wilson.
Police have revealed that debris and an oil spill have been discovered around the initial catastrophe zone, suggesting that the yacht has now sunk.
Garner’s son has told how his father had previously visited the Grenadines Island of Bequia, and was planning to make his way to the Caribbean island of Antigua before the blaze on his yacht broke out. Interestingly, whilst the stories of all those involved with Garner correlate, newspaper The Jamaica Observer has said that checks initiated by police show Heidi Hukkelaas has not left the state by air or sea ports, providing strong evidence that she is still somewhere in the Caribbean.
With solid pieces of evidence few and far between, and a host of unexplained circumstances surrounding John Garner’s death, St Vincent police have a lot of digging to do until they reach the definitive answers regarding the case. It is thought the Caribbean yacht blaze that killed the Brit has also destroyed the majority of proof that could ascertain whether or not it was murder.
Opinion by Zachary John