Lost at Sea
A sea and air search follows the disappearance of two Roatan tourists

September 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk


One of two Honduran navy vessels used during the air-sea search for missing tourists.

One of two Honduran navy vessels used during the air-sea search for missing tourists.

On August 16 two Spanish tourists, Maria Carmen Arenas, 46, and Francisco Romani, 49, are presumed to have been blown out to sea while kayaking in West Bay. Their kayaks were available with their home rental, and it is unclear what time they left.

After 10 days of little or no wind on Roatan, August 16 brought winds with gusts up to 50 miles an hour and high waves. “We went out looking for them in a boat at night, but turned back when waves reached eight feet,” said Vice Mayor Delzie Jackson Rosales, who coordinated the search efforts.

At 5am the next day several planes, a helicopter and numerous boats began searching the sea east of Roatan. Around 3pm a helicopter from San Pedro Sula with three volunteer spotters had located one of the kayaks 25 miles north of Utila. The kayak was picked up a few hours later by the Bobby Jr. boat that was participating in the search.

The search operators relied on local boat captains for their experience and advice as to where the disappeared could be drifting. As current and wind were likely to push the remaining kayak and the missing couple northwest, on August 18, the search focused on areas close to Belize.

“[In this type of situation] the best thing you could do is call Miami Rescue Coordination Center and ask them for their best guess where the missing could be,” said Lloyd Davidson, owner of Flying Fish, who has used the maritime service in the past. Based on the time, wind and current information, the center can plot the likely route of the missing.

Rosales contacted Honduran navy, Belizean coast guard, seaplanes, local airlines, private helicopters and boats, even secured the help of two US army helicopters from Soto Cano Army base. With just the private helicopter costs of $560 an hour, the search costs were running into tens of thousands of dollars.

At the same time volunteer divers from West End conducted an underwater search for the bodies off West Bay, but found nothing. “We are satisfied with the rescue efforts,” said Spanish embassy representative, Alberto Miranda, who came to Roatan on August 19 to check on the search.

The disappearance of the two Spanish tourists follows the September 2006 disappearance of a Henry Morgan resort employee who was blown to sea on a sea kayak off West Bay. In December 2004 two women in their twenties disappeared and were assumed to have died while on a kayak trip to Utila’s Water Cay. [/private]

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