Meet Ravi Thackurdeen: leader, scholar, role model, dedicated friend, loving son and brother. Ravi was keenly interested in public health, preventative medicine, and ethno medicine. Ravi joined Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association within weeks of starting college. In the summer of his first year, he earned his EMT state certifications. In spring 2012, Ravi explored the medical field as an intern at Weill Cornell Medical College. Ravi also received a research grant from Swarthmore to serve as a research assistant in summer 2012, researching quorum sensing in bacteria for the development of novel antibiotics.
Ravi traveled to Costa Rica in the spring of 2012 to study Global Health and Tropical Medicine with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) in Duke University’s (DU) Global Health Program. Ravi lived at the biological stations and did research in the field with fourteen other students. The students were taken on a surprise end of semester, celebratory trip to Playa Tortuga on Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast by OTS/DU program.
The students were instructed to “swim parallel” if they got caught in a rip current prior to their arrival. This was simply not enough. Playa Tortuga is known for being extremely dangerous. Locals don’t swim there. In addition to rip currents and riptides, it has four rivers emptying into it causing severe water turbulence and there have been many deaths from drowning. OTS placed its students on this dangerous beach without any safety backups, despite United States travel warnings.
Ravi and another student were wading in shallow water when they got caught in a rip current. Ravi screamed for help while calming his classmate. The classmate survived, saved by a tourist who risked his own life. Ravi was pulled over 300 yards away from shore. He heroically treaded water for over thirty minutes, waiting for help that never came.
All of our hopes and dreams for Ravi were destroyed in that one horrible, irresponsible and 100% preventable decision. The time spanning the initial contact to the inadequate search for Ravi was all very traumatic. Ravi’s body lay on the beach in 90-degree weather for over two hours before being carried in the back of an open pick-up truck in the sweltering sun. We couldn’t see our son after that.
It was during intense research and letter writing campaign to my state and federal officials that I came across ClearCause Foundation. I have since reached out to many parents across the country whose children have also died on student travel and study abroad programs.We have come together to support ClearCause because we want accountability, reforms, truth, justice, transparency and protection. We need mandates to govern safety within study abroad programs.
In honor of my son, Ravi, and all our amazing children who have senselessly loss their lives, there can be no stopping until laws are put into place to protect our students.
Safety must be mandated and enforced, as America’s best and brightest are dying abroad. No other family should experience our excruciating pain and loss.
-Ros Thackurdeen, mother of Ravi