Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat
Dr. Gary Swank was a victim in a double homicide on Sunday, June 23, 2019 as he fly fished the saltwater flats near San Pedro, Belize. (Photo courtesy of Carilion Clinic)

As an investigation continues in the Caribbean, the fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that occurred on what appeared to be a routine guide trip on Sunday, June 23, 2019 in a shallow lagoon near San Pedro, Belize.

The homicides took place when Virginia cardiologist Dr. Gary Paul Swank, 53, went on a late-morning fly fishing trip with Mario Nestle Graniel, Jr., also 53, in the shallow waters near San Pedro. Less than two hours later, police were summoned to the area by a report of a shooting, soon discovering the lifeless bodies of both men.

The fly angler and guide were reportedly attacked as a boat sped by Graniel’s skiff. Graniel was found in his vessel, while Swank was found floating in the water a short distance away, both men having suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Media reports indicate that the bodies of the two men were transported to a local clinic and then on to a morgue in Belize City where autopsies were conducted.

Swank, a well-liked interventional cardiologist at the Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va., is described as an avid fly fisherman, visiting local Virginia waters, spots in Alaska, and saltwater destinations to fish for everything from pike to tarpon.

Media reports indicate that he had arrived in Belize on Saturday, June 22, 2019, along with his wife and three school-aged children.


On Monday, the Carilion Clinic issued a statement about Swank’s loss:


“Today we learned the tragic news that Dr. Gary Swank, interventional cardiologist, medical director of Carilion Clinic’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab and an associate professor of internal medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, was found murdered, along with his local tour guide, in Belize yesterday.

“We are heartbroken at his loss. Dr. Swank was a well-respected and well-loved colleague who, each and every day, embodied the values that we hold dear. His absence leaves a void in our team and in our community. Our thoughts, prayers and attention are now focused on helping his family navigate this difficult time.”

A day later on Tuesday, Swank’s family issued a statement as well:

“We are heartbroken at the loss of our incredible husband and devoted father Gary Swank, M.D., who we will forever cherish.


His senseless murder has left us to mourn a purposeful life ended too soon.

“Gary was an incredibly driven individual, both professionally and personally, and we were blessed to have been a part of his life. His death will be felt throughout the community, as he was a physician, caregiver, teacher, mentor, avid outdoorsman, neighbor, colleague, and friend to many.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming love shown by family, friends, patients and strangers. For the countless prayers, flowers, and phone calls – thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”


The investigation into the double homicides continues as this is written with News5 Belize reporting on Wednesday that local police had detained a woman described as “…very close to Graniel.” And on Thursday, June 27, 2019, media reports began to surface that authorities were seeking a male suspect for questioning in the slayings.

At the moment, authorities believe Graniel had some sort of dispute with a local gang figure. Graniel's home had reportedly been shot at a day or so before the fatal shootings took place. Authorities also have reportedly indicated that they do not believe that Swank was an intended target, but instead was “collateral damage” in the shooting.

While the general thought of many is that Belize is a relatively safe destination for fishing expeditions, there has been a wave of violent crime in recent days that has included the execution style slayings of five men at sea in what authorities believe was a drug related incident.

The country does have a U.S. State Department issued Level 2 travel advisory (Link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/belizetravel-advisory.html ), an advisory that urges visitors to be more vigilant than normal, particularly in certain gang prone areas of the Caribbean nation.

That advisory is a part of the State Department’s four level travel advisory system which includes Level 1 (exercise normal precautions), Level 2 (exercise increased caution), Level 3 (reconsider travel), and Level 4 (do not travel).

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

A backhand cast is when you use your backcast to deliver the fly.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discuss the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in United States

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado

Steven B. Schweitzer - May 03, 2016

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in " Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado."

American River California United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones are brightly colored treasures. Trout

Alpine Lakes for Remote Monsters

Landon Mayer - April 18, 2018

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones...

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the world. Worldwide

5 Best Trout Fishing Spots in the World

Ross Purnell, Editor

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the...

See More Trending Articles

More Industry

Most fly-fishing industry professionals we spoke with remain optimistic about the future. Industry

How Coronavirus has Impacted the Fly-Fishing Travel Industry

Bill Bowers - May 12, 2020

Most fly-fishing industry professionals we spoke with remain optimistic about the future.

It began with love of a river that he fished as a boy with his father, and a passion for the sport that still endures today. Industry

Abe's Fly Shop Turns 60

Jay Walden - February 22, 2019

It began with love of a river that he fished as a boy with his father, and a passion for the...

Simon is the third generation of the Perkins family to lead Orvis since 1965. Industry

Simon Perkins is the New President of Orvis

Fly Fisherman - May 27, 2020

Simon is the third generation of the Perkins family to lead Orvis since 1965.

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers. Industry

America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2020

Fly Fisherman - April 14, 2020

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers.

See More Industry

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now