Authorities Investigate Tourists’ Drowning

May 13, 2005

AUTHORITIES are investigating lastweek’s drowning of U.S. tourists DavidMarvin Mahnke, 63, and Carole JoyceMahnke, 61, near the mouth of the SavegreRiver, 15 miles from the central Pacificport-town of Quepos.The couple drowned May 4 after a waveknocked them off the Flyfisher, the sportsfishingboat they were on (TT, May 6).This week, the Chief Prosecutor’sOffice started an investigation in Queposto determine whether anyone is liable forthe tragedy, said Judicial Branch spokeswomanSandra Castro.The Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ)completed their investigation on thedrowning and submitted a report to theprosecutor’s office last week, said OIJspokesman Francisco Ruíz.“OUR investigation shows there is evidencethat incriminates the Flyfisher’s captain,as well as evidence to disprove hisguilt,” Ruíz said.Captain Alder Alvarez and sailorJonathan Maquenzie were in command ofthe Flyfisher the morning of the accident.They both survived with minor injuriesthat did not require medical attention.Alvarez, who has 10 years’ experienceas a captain, could be implicated for navigatingnear a river mouth – considereddangerous areas for their strong currents –and for allowing the Wisconsin couple toremove their life vests, Ruíz explained.According to the OIJ report, thetourists were wearing life vests at thebeginning of the trip but later removedthem.After the wave struck the vessel,Maquenzie, who was also knocked into thewater, managed to help the woman safelyreach a sandbar. However, the currentswept her and her husband, who had driftedaway from them, to their deaths, accordingto a report from the National InsuranceInstitute (INS).“It is possible they were not experiencedswimmers,” Ruíz said.THE Tico Times tried to contactAlvarez through Marzul del Pacífico S.A.,the company that owns the Flyfisher, butaccording to Marzul representative MarlenVargas, Alvarez and Maquenzie do nothave home phones.Captain Félix Villalobos, director ofthe Quepos Coast Guard, said thatalthough a study is necessary to determinewhether Alvarez is to blame for the drowning,he believes it was an accident.“It sounds like it could have happenedto anyone. A lot of times, tourists want tofish something good, they want action, andboat captains decide to take risks for theirenjoyment. Ticos can be very accommodating,”Villalobos told The Tico Times ina phone interview.By law, all vessels must carry enoughlife vests for the maximum number of passengersthey can hold. However, no regulationexists requiring passengers to wearthem.“ALTHOUGH we always recommendthat people wear their life vests, they oftenremove them because they’re hot oruncomfortable,” said Carlos Carvajal,from the Quepos Maritime Division of theMinisitry of Public Works and Transport(MOPT).According to Carvajal, no law exists tokeep vessels from entering river mouths,although it is common knowledge amongsailors that these areas are extremely dangerous.“Many vessels have to cross rivermouths daily, and they do it. It depends onhow big a risk a captain wants to take. Inthe Flyfisher’s case, however, they werenear the river mouth, and certainly notattempting to cross it,” he said.Carvajal explained that all boats mustundergo an annual inspection by theMOPT Maritime Division to obtain a navigationcertificate.“The Flyfisher passed its inspection;everything was in order. It was merely astroke of bad luck that a wave came,”Carvajal said.OIJ spokesman Ruíz said thedeceased tourists’ belongings were collectedfrom La Mansión Inn, the hotelwhere they were staying in Quepos, andare in the custody of the Quepos court,awaiting retrieval by next of kin or theU.S. Embassy in San José.

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