Saturday, June 29, 2013

Huge Lead In Search For Lady Domina

A search with heart!


The Lady Domina disappeared from St. Marten on March 31st, 2013. Please contact us if you have any information about the boat or the crew.

The last week has been a roller coaster for Tore Christiansen, Tim Paynter and Petter Høiesen, a cousin to one of the missing crew from the Lady Domina and a few other people. For those who are following our account of the search, the Lady Domina disappeared on March 31st, 2013, after departing Marigot Bay, St. Martin. No one has come forward claiming to have seen the yacht since then.

View Marigot Bay, St Martin in a larger map

The tip we received could have resolved many of the details regarding the missing yacht.  There still would have been some nagging questions, but it would have provided a path to more leads and a chance for some likely closure on behalf of the family members.

Because the family reads this blog, and we know how difficult this process is, I was asked not to share the exact nature of the tip.  Tore Christiansen has done a great job at coordinating tips and leads.  When Tore says don't publish something, I listen.

Instead I would like to address the courage it takes to come forward.  Let's say you have some information but you really don't want to get involved.  Maybe your information would lead to a resolution of this case, but one can never be sure.  Worse, what happens if your information results in another dead end?

To this I say, the courageous come forward.  The cowards stay silent.  No one is going to fault a person who has information that leads to a dead end.  We understand there must be a certain number of dead ends in order for the truth to be found.  Each dead end we hit is one notch closer to the truth.

The person who came forward with information is a sailor in St. Maarten who now feels bad because the lead does not appear as if it will pan out.  I told him, rather than feeling badly about it, he should feel like a hero.  It took courage to make the report, to take time out of his life to come forward, those are actions of a person with character and conviction.

NA Coast Guard

With this lead, we had to involve the Netherlands Antilles Coast Guard.  Normally, when the authorities say they are unable to connect the dots, we take that as a no and move to the next lead.  Because this lead looked SO PROMISING, we went back to the Coast Guard four times asking them, "Well, did you cover this base?" "What about that base." "Someone on our team had another thought, would you consider checking certain things out."

Our first conversation with the coast guard drafted by Tore was very genteel.  We received a genteel response back.  By the fourth conversation, while each side remained respectful, the conversations were very direct and frank.  It is hard to yell at one another through email, but we were as close to email-yelling as one could get and still be courteous.  

As it turned out, the NA Coastguard took our lead very seriously from the start.  You have to learn how these organizations communicate with the public.  It is their nature to be bland and cautious in revealing details.  A response saying "We checked the lead out, we have not been able to verify it, but we will keep you posted,  By the way, we are familiar with the case and watchful" might mean they immediately investigated.  In our case, that is what the first communication meant.  

We thank the NA Coastguard for their patience with us and their willingness to immediately check on leads so the information does not become stale.

JRCC Stavanger File Photo

I also recieved a heart felt response from Jarle Øversveen, with JRCC Stavanger who was feeling a little unappreciated and who wrote:

"JRCC Stavanger has great understanding for the difficult situation the relatives are in, desperately looking for answers. We also very well understand that when the media writes that the operation ends, so amplifies this despair. Please know that a decision to suspend an action that is not resolved, is one of the hardest decisions rescue centers take. Never the less, such a decision must eventually be taken."

We do not want any of the many rescue organizations who daily put their lives on the line to feel we are not appreciative of their efforts.  We know these people are professionals and more than that, they are with us at heart.  

Tore Christiansen has been a great leader in this search for answers.  He has been incredibly patient with me and a good guiding hand.  I didn't know tore before this.  He is crusty when he has to be and gentle as a lamb otherwise.

I got to know Petter Høiesen for the first time this last week.  This is a person who speaks with great passion and conviction.  We learned a little more about Stian from Peter who is Stian's cousin.  Petter conveyed how difficult a process this has been for the family.

That brings me to me.  I must weigh whether or not I am making a positive contribution to this effort by reporting the news, and by looking for more leads.  It keeps the yachting community informed and answers questions they would like to ask but have not because they do not want to flood the families with multiple contacts.  It helps young sailors understand a little more about what happens when everything goes wrong.  Perhaps there are lessons here.  In my case, there certainly have been lessons learned. 

Bill Dietrich Photo

Ultimately, we may be able to draw conclusions about the fate of the Lady Domina if we keep asking for hope and for leads.  Only by keeping the story alive can we keep it fresh in people's minds.  

Yet, with each new lead we raise hopes and then dash them.  How important is learning the fate of Lady Domina to closure?  I would appreciate comments and points of view about the wisdom of continuing this report and my efforts in the search.

To this day, likely the most nagging lead we have is the May 5th communication overheard by a yacht called the Blue Pelican between the crew of the Lady Domina and the U.S. Coast Guard.  The Blue Pelican overheard the Coast Guard side of a request by the crew of the Lady Domina for weather information.  The Coast Guard says they have no record of it.  We could easily chalk this lead up to being a simple misunderstanding of names if the crew of the Blue Pelican were not friends of kati Lee, one of the Lady Domina crew members.  The fact is, they were friends.  In our minds that makes this lead very credible.  Yet the U.S. Coast Guard cannot confirm the lead and now refuses to discuss the matter.

I can't tell you how frustrating it is for an organization that may have the answers we seek to refer us to the initial search organization which has now suspended the search.  How can they be of any help when they have suspended the search?  They would have to reopen the case when all we are doing is checking leads to see if they are worthy of reopening a case.  We have experienced this same answer many times.

Getting back to the lead I was referring to througout this post, we seek a somebody on St. Maartin to do a little bird dogging for us.  It will take maybe a half day, we think.  We ask the somebody to have the courage to come forward and help us attempt to close this lead, so we do not have continuing nagging questions about it, too.

You can contact Tore Christiansen HERE.  You can contact me HERE.

My biggest character defect is my strongest asset.  I never give up hope.  I try to do things that can't be done.  In the process I have done things most thought could never be done.  This case has molested my conscience since the beginning.  Five sailors disappear without a trace.  I would like to keep looking and seeking answers.  However, I also want to respect those who are in pain over the prospects for the crew of the Lady Domina.

Finally, to that someone sailor in St. Maarten, who had the courage to come forward with this most recent lead, I say, Sir, you are to be commended.

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