TODAY NICARAGUA – Nicaragua’s police, army and navy will investigate the captain of a tourist boat and his assistant for the deaths of 13 Costa Rican passengers killed when the vessel capsized in bad weather, a top government official said Sunday.
The “Reyna del Caribe,” ( Spanish for “Caribbean Queen,”) was carrying more than 30 people when it went down Saturday amid strong winds as it ferried tourists between Big and Little Corn Islands, a popular tourist destination, off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.
First Lady and government spokeswoman, Rosario Murillo, said on Sunday that the boat was carrying 25 Costa Ricans, two Americans, two British citizens, a Brazilian and three Nicaraguans. Previous reports had said there were 32 people on board including four Americans. All the dead were Costa Ricans, mainly women, Murillo said.
“This is a great tragedy, truly painful, because they were our Costa Rican, Central American brothers and sisters who were vacationing in the waters of the Nicaraguan Caribbean,” Murillo said on Saturday.
Mario Berrios, the Nicaraguan navy’s commander for the southern Caribbean region, said the boat’s captain was detained because the vessel was not supposed to be sailing during the inclement weather that had been lashing the region for several days.
“There was a warning that the weather conditions would be bad, but it appears that was ignored and this tragedy happened,” Berrios said. Authorities had suspended boat launches in the area due to winds reaching 25 to 30 knots (29 to 35 mph).
The bodies of the Costa Rica victims and the survivors were back in Costa Rica Sundat night.
Nicaragua Rescue workers will be joined Monday by six helicopters of the U.S. South Command to search for the bodies of four of the dead Costa Ricans.
The captain and owner of the boat, Hilario Blandón, is being investigated for drug trafficking.
Nicaragua police commissioner, Aminta Granera Sacasa, Blandon had already completed his sentence for drug trafficking and was currently under investigation for similar crimes. Nicaraguan authorities allege that the boat carrying the passengers was also used for drug trafficking.
According to reports, Blandon sailed with the tour group without permission, ignoring warnings about bad weather.