The Missing Americans Project

Looking for People and Answers

Aaron Rose, a young American on vacation with his family on the island of Roatan, Honduras, took a kayak off the island's West End yesterday to watch the sun set and was pulled out to sea. Today, he was rescued by U.S. Blackhawk helicopters from Joint Task Force Bravo in Soto Cano, Honduras. 

Aaron's story is of great personal significance to me because I lost my brother, Joe Dunsavage, under nearly identical circumstances on Roatan six years ago. At that time, receiving precious little help or guidance from the U.S. embassy, we had to coordinate our own search from New Jersey. We had to discover the existence of JTFB through our own research and plead with our congresspeople to insist that these U.S. assets get involved in our privately funded amateur search operation. When the Blackhawks joined our search, 72 hours into our ordeal, it would have been a recovery effort at best. In reality, it was not even that. Neither Joe's body nor the Craig Cat catamaran he was last seen on was ever found.

A lot has changed, it seems. Last year, when eight young people were missing between Roatan and Utila, the Soto Cano Blackhawks were quickly engaged and the kids were rescued. Likewise with Aaron. In both cases, I've been told, the lessons derived from my family's experience were intetgral to successful conclusions. 

Tomorrow, Aaron will be on television. He will be celebrated, and his rescuers and the Bay Islands community that pulled together so effectively will be lauded. It is altogether fitting and proper that this should happen. 

But please let us not, in our happiness for the Rose family, forget the larger issue: Vacation destinations in the developing world are heavily marketed without regard to the perils that exist there and to the lack of safety and security infrastructure to respond to these perils. What we saw today in Roatan and Utila represents progress, but there is a lot more work to be done. The tourism industry and the governments in these countries need to take responsibility and be held accountable for the safety of the people they lure to their shores with promises of paradise. 

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