Sunday 26 September 2021

Court acquits defendants in ‘rafting’ accident that claimed the lives of five people

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QCOSTARICA – The Quepos Criminal Court acquitted an operator and two tour guides accused of the danger of shipwreck and four crimes of culpable homicide due to a rafting accident in October 2018 in Quepos, Puntarenas, which claimed the lives of four foreign tourists and a Costa Rican guide.

Acquitted. The acquittal generated hugs of joy among the defendants and their families, who since July 5, when the trial began, lived great anxiety. Photo: Rafael Pacheco Granados

The acquitted are two brothers with surnames Contreras Martínez, 26 and 28 years old, and the owner of Quepoa Expeditions SA, Pessoa Calvo, 45.

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They were absolved of all punishment and responsibility in the application of the universal principle in “dubio pro reo” (defendant may not be convicted by the court when doubts about his or her guilt remain), explained the judge in charge of the hearing, Hellen Arias.

The Court also absolved an American named Townsend Allen, for four crimes of simple homicide that were attributed to him.

Townsend Allen was the person who recommended the foreigners, a group of 14 American tourists celebrating a bachelor party in Costa Rica, to take the tour with the Quepoa Expeditions company.

Read more: Four U.S. Tourists And Guide Dead In Rafting Accident in Quepos

Undoubtedly, one of the Contreras brothers, 28, was also acquitted, who was also accused of two crimes of omission of assistance, to the detriment of Luis Beltrán and Evelio Meza, survivors of the tragedy that occurred on October 20, 2018, at 3 pm, when the guides went on an excursion with a group of American tourists.

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Apparently, the defendants were aware that due to the weather conditions on that day it was risky to raft or run the rapids on the Naranjo River.

Ernesto Sierra Estrada (25), Jorge Tomás Caso (22), Sergio Luis Lorenzo (32) and Andrés Denis (30), all American citizens, died of drowning. Costa Rican tour guide Kevin Thompson Reid, 45, also lost his life.

Read more: ‘I Condem Costa Rican Authorities’, Says Mother of Rafting Accident Survivor

The Prosecutor’s Office has asked the court for a sentence of 15 years in prison for the accused.

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Daniel Soley, Townsend Allen’s lawyer, said that with the sentence ends an ordeal for his client and for the other defendants.

“All he did was receive the tourists who asked for a service, within his contract. As they told him later that they wanted to go rafting, he only made an introduction, but he was not a participant in taking them to the river,” Soley said.

Soley insisted that it was fortuitous conditions that generated the water current and that it was thanks to the action of the guides that the tragedy was not greater, since they saved many of those who fell into the water, and even one of them (Kevin Thompson Reid) died in that task.

Read more: Parents of victims of a deadly rafting accident In Costa Rica to ask for explanations

The reading of the ruling took place at 1:30 pm Tuesday in the Courts of San José, where the judges in charge ordered the immediate cessation of the precautionary measures that weighed against the tour operator, the two guides and Townsend Allen.

In the ruling of this Tuesday, the civil action for compensation was declared without merit. In Costa Rica trials, the family of victims can ask the court for compensation.

The ruling by judges Mariana Ramón Fernández, Sandra Arrieta Sánchez and Hellen Arias Solano, of the Quepos Criminal Court, was unanimous.

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