Two Tourists Shot, Severely Injured In Virgin Islands Gunmen At Large; Tourism Still Reeling From Hurricane
Doctors battled Friday to save the lives of two American tourists, wounded in an attack that sent shock waves through the island’s fragile tourist industry.
Both were shot in the head in Wednesday’s attack in a parking lot on St. Thomas, the main island of this Caribbean U.S. territory. A third victim was less seriously hurt.
The violence prompted the government to reimpose a curfew and take other measures to ensure calm and safeguard tourism, already hard-hit by a devastating hurricane last fall.
“The whole industry is extremely concerned,” said Beverly Nicholson, director of the islands’ private Hotel Association. She said no hotels had reported cancellations.
Governor Roy Schneider promised speedy action to find the attackers. He ordered police to mount roadblocks and vehicle and body searches. However, there was no sign of any such activity early Friday evening.
Tourism is the Virgin Islands’ lifeblood, bringing in $1 billion a year and providing 85 percent of its jobs.
St. Thomas still is recovering from punishing Hurricane Marilyn, which blasted through in September and severely damaged 85 percent of the island’s buildings. Many hotels remain shut.
The shooting victims were with several others who had just arrived at the parking lot of a dockside restaurant in southeast St. Thomas.
Authorities said two gunmen wearing masks appeared in an upstairs doorway and opened fire.
“He was firing at me,” said Joe Meyers of West Trenton. N.J. He said he avoided injury by falling to the ground.
The gunmen hit Marie Sardella, 53, owner of a flower shop in Walpole, Mass.; Walter Schenk, 58, a construction company owner from Philadelphia; and William Garrity, 52, an Atlantic City, N.J. restaurateur.
Sardella and Schenk were flown by ambulance plane to San Juan, where neurosurgeons operated. They were in critical but stable condition late Friday, said Dr. Benjamin Morales.
“She’s moving all her limbs. She’s doing pretty well considering she’s been shot in the head,” Sardella’s daughter, Lisa, said at the hospital.
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