Things That Matter

Costa Rican Officials Claim That A Missing Florida Man Wandered Into A River But His Family Doesn’t Believe It

Sixty-two-year-old retired accountant, Charles Hughes of Tampa, Florida has been missing since August 3rd.  The avid traveler had just visited Costa Rica last month. While he was there, he met a man and the two hit it off. Hughes quickly made plans to return to Costa Rica and meet up with his new companion. 

Hughes was staying at Cabinas Jiménez in Puerto Jiménez off Gulfo Dulce and all seemed well until Charlie no longer had steady communication, no more calls or text, no more social media post. Immediately his sister Nancy began to panic. She and their siblings began to reach out to all local law enforcement in the area where her brother was last seen.

Credit: Cabinas Jímenez / Facebook

It has now been nearly a month and Charlie Hughes never made his return flight home. The family is fighting to get more answers. A week ago, local officials made a discovery, Hughes rental car was found at the bottom of Nuevo Rio River in Puerto Jiménez.

According to Hughes sister, Nancy Steffens, officials have told her that her brother most likely “wandered off” into the river.

Credit: Charlie Hughes / Facebook

Hughes’s family has said that they do not believe the story the authorities are giving them. Not only was their brother an experienced traveler but they are a military family who relocated often, therefore Charlie was able to adapt to new spaces quickly. Plus, this wasn’t his first trip to Costa Rica, he was actually returning to the same area he had previously visited. 

The family stated that they are not giving up hope. They are going to fight until they get the truth.

As for the man that was Charlie’s new friend – who is also the last person known to have seen Charlie – Nancy says local authorities told the family they questioned the man and have released him.

Hughes and his companion (who hasn’t been named) hasn’t been seen since. 

Credit: TexasEquuSearch – TEXQ / Facebook

A family that knows all too well what the Hughes is going through, is Carla Stefaniak’s family. The Venezuelan-American was an Insurance Agent and also an experienced traveler, also from Florida (Miami.) Stefaniak had booked a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate her 36th birthday.

This new mysterious death in Costa Rica is troubling.

Credit: carla_margarita / Instagram

Ready to ring in around trip around the Sun, she checked into her Airnbn and enjoyed a few days with her sister-in-law who then returned home on that Tuesday and Stefaniak was supposed to return home the following day on Wednesday, but just like Hughes she never boarded her return flight. 

In Carla’s last text to her family, sent November 27, 2018, she told them it was raining pretty hard and the lights kept going in and out at the place she was staying at, her last words read “this place seems pretty sketch.”

By December 3, 2018, the family was working round the clock on a full-scale search, sharing her story with every and any media outlet, in hopes to bring their daughter home safely.

The disappearance of Stefaniak made national headlines in the U.S. as the family searched for their loved one.

Credit: carla_margarita / Instagram

Sadly, a couple of days later her body was found, buried in a shallow grave behind the Airbnb she was staying at. Her family confirmed that is was her. The security guard employed at the gated villa is now being tried for her murder. 

Airbnb has since removed the property from their listings.

Just months before the Carla Stefaniak case, there were three cases of missing tourist whose bodies were later recovered. 

Costa Rica has been known for its beautiful beaches and relatively low crime has always been considered one of the safest tourist destinations. According to the stats at InSight Crime, even though Costa Rica hit a record high in 2017 for homicides, their numbers are still significantly lower than the numbers for the No. 1 Latin American destination place for tourist, Mexico.

InSight Crime lists different reasons for a rise in crime, but there does seem to by a cycle that is followed starting with imperialism that carries over decades that then creates unstable governments and depreciates the value of the currency in a country. When we see the currency drop that creates the perfect storm for criminal organizations to rise-up and recruits. 

We have seen this happen in Mexico and we are currently seeing this happen in Central America. Make no mistake, this doesn’t happen out of anywhere, there is decades build-up to how this rise in crime happens. 

For many Latinos in the United States, especially those on the border, traveling between two countries is nothing new. We grew up already hearing little life lessons from our parents like “esconde el dinero” “no hables ingles” always be aware of your surroundings and never give too much information.

However, for the millennial Latino generation we are traveling solo more often, we are creating content on social media, and we are living in a time of instant access. We now have AirBNB and Uber, so many other apps that make these common-sense tips sometimes get lost in our day-to-day lives.

As with any trip planning to any country, it is always good to do your research and there are plenty of websites, blogs, etc., that can offer safety trips and travel alerts, to keep yourself informed.

Always check the State Department website for travel advisories when planning international travel.

Credit: U.S. State Department

Don’t cancel your plans to visit Costa Rica, just yet. As of a few days ago, the website World Population Review listed their top safest countries to visit in Latin America, Costa Rica ranks number three.

READ: Costa Rica Is Warning Everyone To Stop Drinking Alcohol As 19 People Have Died Due To Tainted Alcohol

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