The relatives of the American tourists who left the west coast of Barbados exactly one year ago on a jet ski ride and then disappeared have still not stopped hoping that their loved ones remain alive.
The tourists Oscar Suarez, 32 and his partner Magdalena Devil, 25 embarked on a 30-minute jet ski ride at Holetown, St James and were never seen or heard from again.
But grieving relatives of the American couple are hoping that authorities here will break months of silence and reply to their cries for closure as they desperately search for answers to lingering questions about what might have happened to their loved ones.
Family members are still not satisfied that thorough investigations were conducted to determine whether the couple may have been somewhere on land. They are also dissatisfied with the extent to which authorities were able to provide video evidence from establishments on the west coast to determine what may have gone wrong on the day in question. Family members were also hoping that more investigations would have been conducted into the Jet Ski that was used and the operator that owned it.
While the frustrated family members don’t expect that some positive developments will “magically” be revealed, they are holding out hope that the two are alive until they receive solid evidence to the contrary.
“We understand that the likelihood of that is pretty small, but if we had clear answers knowing that a thorough investigation was done, we would be at peace knowing that we did everything we could have possibly done. But one year later, we don’t feel that way, and that is unfortunate because initially, we felt just a great sense of support from the people of Barbados and as hard as that time was initially, we really felt a lot of support and since then there has been nothing. And that is hard.
“Anyone who has a sibling or a child will never lose hope, because we can’t. If we hear otherwise we will have to deal with that until the time comes, but we will not give up hope of either finding them or finding out what happened to them.”
On March 5 this year, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey disclosed that his ministry had met with the coast guard, maritime operators, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and other stakeholders about proposed legislation that would be ready to go to Parliament soon.
“I am hopeful that in a month, at most six weeks, I would be in a position to bring this to Cabinet with a definitive position on exactly how it is going to look but most of the groundwork has already been done,” he told the House of Assembly.
“Bringing discipline to that space is one of my more pressing concerns so we will have it resolved in short order,” the minister added.
On Wednesday, with tears flowing as freely as they did last June, Suzanna Cruz and Thais Aguilar – the sister and cousin of Oscar, revealed that not even counselling has been able to heal the broken hearts of two children, ages six and 11 still struggling with their father’s unexplained absence.
“The kids have had a really difficult year without him, and without having answers. As their aunts, it sucks when they just sit there and cry and there is nothing we can do but just hold them and cry with them,” Aguilar told Barbados TODAY.
“The closer we got to the anniversary, the harder it was. Fathers’ Day was really hard on them; their birthdays have come and gone, and that has been really difficult for them. It has been a really trying year for his kids, who have had to try to acclimatize without their father,” said the heartbroken relative.
Last June’s events triggered a massive search effort involving the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) Coast Guard, the Regional Security System (RSS) and eventually the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
At the behest of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, a three-day search was followed by an extended 72-hour effort which included the United States Air Force and encompassed more than 600 miles to no avail. A week later, on Saturday July 6, French Naval forces located the jet ski between les Saintes islands and Guadeloupe.
The discovery only left more unanswered questions for the family of Oscar Suarez, who continuously pleaded for local authorities to dig deeper. Family members even hired a private investigator, started a “bring back Oscar and Maggie” page and posted a US$100,000 reward for anyone who could provide meaningful tips.
“What we want is transparency so that we know where we are when it comes to this case and we don’t have that at all. I feel like that was one of the areas where we were left in the dark and we were left constantly having to chase for answers, and that is extremely disheartening to us over here because there is not much that we can do besides put ourselves at the mercy of Barbadian authorities,” said Cruz.
The Mottley administration’s last response to questions from relatives about the state of the jet ski owned by Artneal Abbey, the footage from west coast hotels and other key pieces of evidence was on February 14, after which they have gotten nothing but “silence and empty promises”, said Cruz.
Efforts to locate family members of Magdalena Devil have been unsuccessful, but according to Suarez’s family, they are still distraught over the young woman’s disappearance. Devil would have celebrated her 26th birthday last Friday. [email protected]