San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Esterillos drownings prompt new calls for lifeguards

The deaths of two people in less than two weeks in Playa Esterillos, on the Central Pacific, has local residents concerned, as it is the same number of deaths that occurred from drowning during all of last year.

Rose Mary Chamberlain told the daily La Nación that Esterillos is one of the most visited beaches in the region, but there are few lifeguards monitoring the area. She also said neighbors agreed that the lack of support from both local businesses and the government makes it hard to hire lifeguards.

The first person who drowned this year at the beach was Esterillos resident Rodrigo Rodríguez Jiménez, 60, on Jan. 13.

Colorado native Michael McKinsckly, 65, died on Jan. 21 when a large wave knocked him down, likely breaking his neck, Red Cross officials said. The incident occurred while McKinsckly was on a boogie board in the water.

Red Cross paramedic Francisco Pérez said that rescue operations are difficult because Esterillos is 47 kilometers (30 miles) away from Parrita, the nearest Red Cross facility.

“It takes us 15 to 20 minutes to arrive. That is the difference between life and death,” Pérez told La Nación.

Police officer Carlos Salas said Esterillos has always been a dangerous beach, and “although there are many signs both in English and Spanish to warn visitors, tourists frequently disregard the warnings.”

Contact L. Arias at

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