Family members of two missing American visitors, though on the island, are no closer to knowing the whereabouts of their relatives, whose half-hour Jet Ski ride has now morphed into a 48-hour search.
And despite launching an “immediate” response to reports about the matter, authorities have reportedly made no progress in finding Oscar Suarez, 32 or Magdalena Devil, 25 after the two mysteriously vanished from the beach at Holetown, St James.
Officials of the Royal Barbados Police Force, Barbados Coast Guard, Regional Security Service (RSS) and Barbados Tourism Marketing Incorporated (BTMI) held a press conference to address the issue.
They were accompanied by Devil’s father, Antoine Devil and cousin Eric Pierre along with Ninfa Urrutia and Susanna Cruz, the mother and sister of Suarez respectively.
Since Jet-ski operator, Aftneal Abbey sounded the alarm, the search, which started with the police’s Marine Unit around 3 p.m. on Monday, has now become an island-wide response from the Coast Guard and includes an aerial effort from RSS aircraft.
“We have continued the search overnight and today and we have not yet encountered them on our side of the shore or drifting,” reported Deputy Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce as teary-eyed family members looked on.
In the absence of strong leads, officials from St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, commercial aircraft and even a privately-owned local plane have been recruited.
Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Ryan Alleyne said the search initially started with a small boat. But after several hours of unsuccessful searches, larger offshore vessels were used throughout Monday night and into Tuesday.
“The search stretched as far west as 25 nautical miles west northwest but we neither saw the jet ski nor the two persons,” said the officer, who revealed at that stage, aerial assistance was requested. Alleyne also revealed a small craft, such as a jet ski was incapable of operating longer than approximately 12 hours.
RSS aircraft captain Francis Eno said flights were conducted at about 500 feet, to ensure they could see small objects like jet-skis. He added that a Wednesday morning flight lasting nearly four hours stretched as far as the coast of St Lucia and the channel between St Vincent and St Lucia in “ideal” search conditions.
“The sea conditions in the last 24 to 36 hours have been slight to moderate… and the conditions for searching have been pretty ideal. The visibility was over ten kilometres and with an altitude of 500 feet, we have been able to see the surface at all times,” said Eno.
Major George Harris, the Officer Commanding the RSS’ air wing added: “In addition I was made to understand that the aircraft owned by [Ralph] Bizzy Williams… is making preparations to assist with the search as well.”
Harris also provided insight on the tremendous difficulty tourists may have been faced with and the uncertainty surrounding the current search.
“You’re really at the mercy of the ocean and the currents, so whatever direction it takes you in, you really have no control. It really depends on the currents and the drifts,” he said.
Family members of the missing pair are in the care of officials from the BTMI. CEO Billy Griffith disclosed that the organisation’s North American branch has been following the developments closely in light of “extensive media coverage” mostly in New York and New Jersey.
“We are going to spend all of our time ensuring we can accommodate them as best as we can. We are going to try and answer any questions they have or put them on to the appropriate sources,” he promised.
The missing visitors arrived in Barbados on Saturday, June 22 and were staying at room 49, Starfish Discovery Bay Hotel in Trents, St. James, police has revealed.