The rafting accident survivors created a campaign to raise $100,000 to help with the funeral expenses of the four friends. - Go Fund Me photo -

Published on Wednesday, September 1, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Quepos Criminal Court acquitted three tour guides, two brothers named Pessoa-Calvo, a man surnamed Contreras-Martínez, plus a tour operator surnamed Townsend, who were accused of the deaths of four U.S. citizens in 2018.

According to the information in the case, the
victims died drowned in a rafting accident when their inflatable raft overturned in the Naranjo River, Quepos Canton, Puntarenas Province.

“By unanimous votes, this court acquits the defendants Pessoa-Calvo and the brothers with surnames Contreras-Martínez of all punishment and responsibility for three crimes of the danger of shipwreck. They are also acquitted of four crimes of wrongful death, which have been attributed to them," the Court said in its statement.

The judges also acquitted Contreras-Martínez on two additional charges of failure to help.

The Court's decision was considered because the tour guides cannot be held liable for lack of fraud. In addition, it was indicated that the mass of water that appeared in the river basin was sudden and unpredictable.

Also, the Court, by unanimous decision, acquitted Townsend "for four crimes of simple murder and four crimes of wrongful death attributed to him," they said.

According to the case, Townsend acted as a tour operator. He was in charge of making the procedures for renting a beach house to U.S. tourists. He also booked the rafting tour as was requested by the tourists.

In the Townsend case, the Court considered that he acted as an independent tour operator for tourists and it was impossible to prove that he was part of a criminal organization that had planned to kill the victims.

The Court's reasons were that there was no intent or fault on the part of the defendants in the accident. In addition, the court also declared inapplicable civil action for compensation against the accused.

The other victim of the deadly rafting trip was the Costa Rican tour guide, identified as Kevin Thompson.

On Aug. 15, the Prosecutor's Office requested a 15-year prison sentence against the accused rafting tour guides and the tour operator. It is expected that during this week the Prosecutor's Office will announce whether or not it will appeal the Court ruling.

In March 2020, the Quepos Prosecutor's Office announced the beginning of the trial process against three suspects in the rafting accident.

In Nov. 2018, all 10 of the survivors, including the brother of one of the victims, Luis Beltran, gave an interview to the Good Morning America TV show, describing the death of his four friends. The interview can be seen on the ABC news channel site.

In Oct. 2018, the rafting accident survivors created a campaign to raise $100,000 to help with the funeral expenses of the four friends on GoFundMe site.

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