Authorities have retrieved the body of a man that went missing early on Monday in Punta Cana after embarking on a fishing trip in nearby Cabeza de Toro. The body was found on a small beach in the Bávaro area, one of the most popular Punta Cana resort zones. The victim, now confirmed to be a Canadian tourist, went missing just around 24 hours prior to being found ashore. Authorities from several institutions are now investigating the shocking incident.
A Canadian man is confirmed to have drowned after a fishing vessel that he had boarded capsized in Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana, earlier this week. The man, who was missing for over a day, has been identified as 40-year-old James Gordon William Dewitt.
Officials made a startling discovery on Tuesday morning when they reported sighting a floating body on a popular Punta Cana beach at around 11:30 A.M. According to sources close to the ongoing investigation, the man had boarded a local fishing vessel on Monday afternoon alongside other Canadian travelers.
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The capsizing is thought to have occurred due to strong weather, including powerful winds and waves, which most likely led to the devastating accident. Despite the inclement conditions, the boat’s captain had apparently ignored official guidelines prohibiting fishing vessels from heading out to sea. Earlier that day, authorities had published a binding order for all small boats to remain docked as stormy weather conditions made sailing highly hazardous.
Authorities are still investigating the details surrounding the capsizing and have detained the vessel’s captain and owner, who survived the ordeal, for questioning. Fortunately, the remaining Canadian occupants were rescued and only suffered minor injuries, including bruises and fractures, and were rushed to local hospitals for medical attention.
First responders and rescue personnel rushed to look for the missing Canadian tourist, and units from the tourist police (Politur), as well as the Dominican Navy, deployed a large-scale search and rescue mission to locate the victim. However, the operation was later called off after failing to find the missing individual, whose body was later discovered on a nearby beach.
All of the boat’s occupants were aged between 36 and 63 years old, and the vessel’s capital, Brenni Miguel Calacnao, a local, was 42. Officials are still trying to determine what led the travelers to embark on a fishing boat during bad weather. The company which owns the boat is also under fire for failing to comply with basic safety regulations, and its owner will have to face legal proceedings.
Although the Dominican Republic is known for its year-round warm weather, tropical conditions can cause powerful storms to form at short notice. Heavy wind, rain, and lightning pose a real risk to countless speed boats and ferries that regularly carry passengers between some of the country’s main islands.
Authorities have taken drastic measures in the past year to bolster the safety of water transportation in the Dominican Republic following a string of sinkings and other accidents. Last year, several vessels caught fire due to poor maintenance, as a result of which tourists were injured and some killed. Officials responded by enacting stronger regulations and guaranteeing compliance by boat operators.
This week’s accident is also a powerful reminder for travelers to closely follow authorities’ instructions when weather alerts are given. If you’re headed to the Dominican Republic, make sure to follow weather updates from the country’s official meteorological service or other reputable sources. In addition to barring boats from going out to sea, officials may temporarily close public beaches and other high-risk areas during bad weather.
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