January 4, 2011
20-year-old Erik Downes was a friend to everyone he met. A pre-medical student at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, Erik served as the Student Senate’s Vice President and participated in mock trial, track and community service projects, according to an article in the Tico Times. He was a strong leader, known for his intellect and affability.
In his junior year, Erik decided to travel to Costa Rica with his school to participate in an ecotourism trip when the unthinkable happened.
Erik was swimming with several other students and faculty members when he was caught in a riptide, reported an article from the Georgia Daily News. Erik’s body never resurfaced. The other students and faculty members caught in the riptide with him were all unharmed. Erik’s body was found three days later in the waters off Playa Pinuelas.
“Our government spends millions protecting our wildlife and the environment. There are laws to enforce these protections and punish violators. But when it comes to protecting American students traveling abroad, there is nothing but silence. The only sounds that can be heard are the cries of the families left behind grieving and searching for answers. Tour operators and travel companies are making millions of dollars while profiting from these businesses. They must be held accountable for these preventable tragedies,” David Angueira, Erik’s attorney said. “The European Union and Great Britain has much stronger laws protecting consumers while traveling. They hold the tour companies responsible for the negligence of their suppliers, unlike the U.S. where most companies hide behind secret documents releasing consumer rights to bring claims against these companies when they harm tourists. See this website to learn about this further.”
-David Angueira, Erik’s attorney.