Reports that the bodies of 32-year-old Oscar Suarez and 25-year-old Magdalena Devil were found off the coast of St. Lucia are not true.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds, confirmed that the reports were false during a press briefing held this morning, at Government Headquarters, Bay Street, St. Michael.
Also present were Chief of Staff of the Barbados Defence Forde, Colonel Glyne Grannum, and Acting Commanding Officer of the Barbados Coast Guard, Ryan Alleyne, who are leading the search operations.
Minister Symmonds disclosed that checks had been done by Saint Lucian authorities and there was no evidence to prove that the American couple, who went missing after taking a jet ski ride at Holetown Beach, St. James, on Monday, were found.
The minister appealed to the public to be mindful of such rumours, and stated that formal daily updates on the search for the missing persons would be given by official sources from Government Headquarters.
“So, you need not speculate. If one does not know, accept that one does not know, and one will be put in the know,” Mr. Symmonds said.
“I urge you to be mindful of the fact that the couple both have families who are on the island at this point. What they are going through is really unimaginable. It is a tremendous level of personal pain, stress and concern. And, what is really most unhelpful for them, is to be put through the emotional peaks and troughs of a roller coaster based purely on empty speculation and what is largely idle gossip,” he stressed.
The Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Coast Guard and the Regional Security System have been conducting searches since Monday, off the coasts of Barbados, and as far as St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia.
Mr. Symmonds added that searches had also been conducted on the northern and north eastern sides of Barbados, in the event the couple had gotten into difficulties up north and drifted to the eastern side of the island.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley authorized that the search be continued for another 72 hours. That extended period will end at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, June 30.
Minister Symmonds indicated that on Friday, a C130 air force reconnaissance plane provided by the United States of America had joined the operation. He stated it would be in the skies for 10 hours daily, in an effort to locate the missing couple and jet ski.
Commander Alleyne gave some details of the operation: “Yesterday, with the assistance from the US Embassy, a C130 flew a pattern on the south western and south eastern sides of St. Vincent and St. Lucia. They have flown as far north as the western and southern sides of Martinique, and up to now we are sorry to say that the search has come up empty handed.”
The Tourism Minister pointed out that international best practice in such scenarios were to search for three days. However, he stressed that Government was committed to the extended 72-hour period.
He also thanked the Governments of the United States of America and Martinique, who provided assistance with “joint modelling” to assess the movement and action of the tides.
“This will help us to assess as best as possible the direction that the missing couple may have gone in. The reality is that none of us know exactly where misfortune may have occurred, so we don’t know what the time of difficulty was, or the point of difficulty was. And it makes it all the more difficult to do a mathematical calculation as to where they would likely be at any given point of time right now. But with the assistance that we do have, the searches continue both by day and where possibly by night,” Mr. Symmonds emphasized.
Responding to questions by the media on what would happen if the couple is not located, he stated that at the end of the extended 72-hour period and the couple was not found, the search would be called off.
“There comes a point when no more can really be done. As I understand it with matters of this nature, international best practice is to do a search for at least three days. We have given the commitment that we are undertaking a search that will go well beyond that period, and really go into six days. But it is a very large ocean out there, [and] there comes a point when mankind in its frailty can do no better. What makes this particularly difficult is that you are not seeking to find a large vessel like an aircraft. This is a jet ski, and it’s very, very tiny and difficult to locate,” Minister Symmonds stated.
An update will be given tomorrow, Sunday, June 30, at 9:45 a.m., and again at the end of the 72-hour period, at 6:30 p.m.