San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Accidents Yielded High Body Count for Foreigners

THE year took a high toll on foreigners – two planes crashed and a fishing yacht disappeared, all bearing tourists and Ticos, and an Australian student disappeared for three months until his remains were found in June.


Brendan Dobbins, 25, an Australian college student on vacation in Costa Rica, disappeared from the northern Pacific beach town of Tamarindo after leaving a bar the night of March 4. After a fruitless search by his friends and father, who visited to assist Costa Rican authorities, crab hunters stumbled on his decomposed remains three months later. Forensic analysts were unable to determine the cause of death and the police investigation turned up no leads.


A U.S. man leaped with a parachute from a falling airplane off Playa Esterillos, in the central Pacific, and floated for 24 hours in the sea until a fisherman rescued him. Police, the Coast Guard and the Red Cross, with five planes, four helicopters, two patrol boats and a speedboat and dozens of volunteer searchers in fishing boats, recovered the bodies of the five other passengers in the plane during a four-day search and rescue operation beginning June 1.


Skydivers from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica apparently lost control of the plane in severe turbulence, according to a tentative Civil Aviation report; the official report has not yet been released.


A second plane crashed off the northern Pacific coast near the beach town of Tamarindo July 16, claiming the lives of six U.S. citizens, including two children. Authorities mounted an eight-day search for the bodies that was bolstered by a donation from the victims’ relatives. A tentative report blames the accident on a mechanical failure.


Off the nearby coast of Playa Flamingo, a sportfishing yacht, the Kingfisher, disappeared July 29 with a crew of three Costa Ricans and a newlywed couple from the United States. The search officially continues, but has ended in practice – the Coast Guard admits it will act on tips from fishermen, but is not actively searching.


Mysteriously, the boat left no sign of having sunk. Two weeks into the search, after flyovers by borrowed U.S. Hercules C-130 military planes, commercial helicopters and a fleet of volunteers in fishing boats searching from the water, there was not even an oil spot to indicate the boat’s whereabouts.


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