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Thursday
May052011

Costa Rica: American Students Drown, One Missing

Goodstock/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Costa Rica) -- Authorities searched for a missing Ohio student off the coast of Costa Rica on Thursday after two of his classmates drowned when they were caught in a violent riptide.

The three teens -- Caity Jones, James Smith and Kai Lamar -- are all high school students at Patriot Preparatory Academy, a Christian charter school in Columbus, Ohio. They, along with other classmates, were on a school-sponsored missionary trip and were swimming at a beach near the Pacific coast town of Parrita.

"From what I understand they were all out in the water, all eight kids and four adults. A rip tide grabbed five of them. The lifeguard rescued two of them. Caity washed up on shore yesterday and the boys have been missing," said Sandy Shoaf, the mother of James Smith.

The body of Jones, 17, was discovered Wednesday, and the body of Smith, 16, was found Thursday, said Jesus Escalona, spokesman for the Costa Rican Red Cross. When reached by phone, Smith's family was not aware that his body had been found and identified. The American Embassy had made them aware Thursday morning that a second body had been found but had not told them the identity of the body, Shoaf said.

"He's a great kid. He lived his life for Jesus from the minute he woke up in the morning until the minute he went to sleep at night. He wanted to be a youth pastor and he was in Costa Rica on his first mission trip," Shoaf said, fighting back tears.

Shoaf's husband and the family's pastor are en route to Costa Rica searching for answers about their son. All 12 of the people on the missionary trip were set to return Thursday night. They had been in Costa Rica for about a week, Shoaf said.

"They were going to orphanages and handing out toys and books and crayons to kids and helping build a church," she said.

Kai Lamar, 16, is the teen who is still missing.

Twenty-five Red Cross rescue workers are continuing the search, said Escalona, aided by two Costa Rican Coast Guard vessels and two police aircraft. The U.S. Coast Guard has pledged to support the search effort.

Drownings have long been a problem on Costa Rica's beaches, resulting from a lack of trained lifeguards. Some 47 people have drowned already this year, according to the Red Cross.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio