Saturday, September 30, 2023


US Missing Diver Is Presumed Dead in Bimini Waters, but His Sister Is Hopeful

The sister of a missing American free diver who went missing in Bimini waters said she will not give up finding her brother, even though the Royal Bahamas Defense Force and the US Coast Guard called off the search.

In hopes that he is still alive, in a message to him she said, “Ryan, we will never stop looking for you.”

Ryan Proulx is seen with his family onboard a vessel.

Nicole Proulx said Ryan went missing on Friday around 6 pm, while free diving in Bahamian waters near the Bimini Barge Wreck, approximately 1.5 miles west of Bimini Inlet, wearing a green UV hooded shirt, heather green athletic shorts, red dive fins, redfin keepers and green snorkels.

He was never found, but a blue pole, red fins, and green shorts were discovered in the surrounding waters on Sunday.

After the US Coast Guard and Royal Bahamas Defence Force suspended the search on Sunday, friends launched a GoFundMe, seeking $60,000 to find the 31-year-old former police officer. As of Monday, more than $30,000 was raised.

Ryan Proulx, standing to the left, receives an award when he served in East Hartford Police Department, in Connecticut.

“Any money raised will go towards helping fly the volunteer dive team in this effort to bring Ryan home in an honorable manner that he deserves… If Ryan is found prior to this rescue trip, the money will go directly to his family. Any money left after the team goes over will go to the family also,” friend Shelby Morin said.

She described Ryan as a “friend and just an amazing guy.”

Ryan who is from Connecticut, left Palm Beach County Marina, Florida for Bimini last Thursday with a crew including his wife, after free diving around a sunken boat, when he disappeared.

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed two helicopters and a search plane to assist the Royal Bahamas Defense Force in the search but came up empty. After aircraft crews searched over 673 square miles for Ryan, the Coast Guard suspended the search.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the Proulx family,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Spado, Coast Guard liaison officer, said in a tweet. “The decision to suspend the active search efforts pending further development is one we never take likely.”

Steve Diffenbacher, a friend said Ryan was a U.S.C.G. licensed boat captain and diver and often ran boats from the Northeast down to South Florida for clients who wanted to transport their boats.

Family of Missing Men Are Still Holding Out Hope After Search Efforts End

After rescue crews ended their search for two missing men from Bimini, family members are holding out hope they would be found alive and have offered a reward as they piece together the circumstances surrounding the men’s disappearance nearly two weeks ago.

The whereabouts of James Toote, 31, and Nazar Robins, 23, from Bimini, Bahamas are still a mystery after frantic searches led to a dead end. Toote, a fisherman routinely travels to Grand Bahama and took Robins with him expecting to return the next day in a vessel that he purchased.

Toote reportedly purchased this boat.

Family members of the men only grew concerned when they did not arrive in Bimini, and alerted officials about the missing case.

Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force became involved, conducting searches, but to no avail.

“Basically, we searched and searched and searched all week, last week with planes, boats and helicopters. Basically, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force was the lead in the case, and yesterday (Sunday) we searched again and that was our last day. We gave it all just about a full week, two planes, three planes in the air at all times,” Eddie Whan, BASRA Chairman told the Tribune.

“We have done everything that we can possibly humanly do up until [Sunday].

“We have had negative results in all of the searches.”

Relatives have since offered a reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the men, asking for members of the public to help identify the previous operators of the boat before it was purchased.

“We need to backtrack and identify the last person to see them or hear their voices.

“If you know something, please say something. Our families are hurting,” Robin’s sister pleaded.

The men’s cell phones were reportedly last used in the West End area, and their vessel reportedly departed from Port Lucaya in Grand Bahama.

Robin’s mother, Renee Smith also pleaded for help locating the men, “Please! We need closure.

“I believe I will see Nazr again. Hoping and praying still,” she said.

Whitney Brice, the niece of Toote said while she awaits their return, the pain of not knowing is overwhelming.

“From Sunday to now, no word at all. Lord knows this is hurtful. Yes, I trust you Lord but the process is rough.”

Early in the investigation, rumours circulated that the men were arrested in Florida, but the families quickly shot down the speculations.

“The rumours may not be true but someone knows what happened and we will wait for that story,” Robin’s sister said.


A Sister Is Praying the Missing Boaters Come Home

More than a week since their disappearance on the high seas, sister Themeia Sands is anxiously awaiting her brothers’ return, who traveled in a boat from Bimini to their purported next stop, Andros.

Themeia took to social media asking for assistance in finding the men, Christopher Mackey and Jerone Sands, showing the bright yellow and white boat they were last seen in.

Mackey, 51, worked at the Water and Sewage Corporation and Sands, 44, was a carpenter and a boat engine repair man, travelling from Nassau to Florida to pick up a boat, purchased by a buyer in the capital.

Family members in Bimini said the men stopped by on their way to Andros, but experienced a problem with the boat’s engine and the hull. And were admonished to take a plane from Bimini but the men opted to continue their journey to Andros, after making the necessary repairs to the vessel.

The brothers left Bimini on Monday 22nd after 3 pm but never reached Andros according to a family member who stood on the dock awaiting their arrival until 2 am.

Since then, the family has been worried, praying the pair will soon call to say they are in good physical shape.

Themeia said, “This is alarming and strange that were funding the sea and aircraft in an effort to find them and bring them home safely. Nothing was spotted. Someone saw or know something.”

The sister, while on social media, agitated for the Royal Bahamas Police force to produce a missing person flyer for the men, calling officers “laid back” in the attempt to help find her brothers.

On Wednesday afternoon, authorities issued the flyer asking for the public’s assistance in finding the men.

If you see Mackey or Sands, call the police at 911 or 502-9991. Family members are also asking the boaters to be on the lookout for the pair.

A Tale of Two Jamaicans in the Bahamas: Shaggy Concert Goes On While Dexta Daps a No Go

Following the cancellation of a concert featuring renowned Dancehall Artist Dexta Dap over COVID-19 protocols, one concert is still continuing. Jamaican artist Shaggy is holding a concert at Resorts World Bimini on February 26.

The artist, known for hits, It Wasn’t Me and Angel is expected to garner a crowd of fans on the hotel property on the southerly island.

In an advertisement, the hotel says, “Come party with Shaggy in Bimini.

“Get into the party vibe with multi-award-winning songwriter and hitmaker. Dance to his hits…”

Though Shaggy is expected to perform in the country, Dexta Daps was denied.

He was disapproved three times by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a weekend concert which was expected to attract nearly 2000 people, at the National Stadium, Carnival Grounds.

Director of Communications Latrae Rahming announced on a local television show that the event was denied due to the COVID restrictions. The country’s COVID measures permit only 30 people for social events.

Since the pandemic, other social events have been canceled, but hotels were permitted to host such events.

The Bahamas is still in the fourth wave of the pandemic. As of yesterday, 22 new cases sprung up in New Providence while Bimini has no new case.

Missing Boater Found After Bimini Trip. Coast Guards Suspect Human Smuggling Activity.

A South Florida boater was found alive after being reported missing for several days. However, officials suspect human smuggling activity.

Fifty-four-year-old Juan Gonzalez was on his way from Bimini, Bahamas in a 22-foot vessel with a stepson who is not a US citizen, and was expected to arrive at Homestead Bayfront Park in Miami on Sunday.

When he did not show up, a missing person’s report was filed.

Someone spotted a disabled boat about 10 miles off Jupiter Inlet. He was rescued after reporting that he had run out of fuel.

Lt Karolina Vega said, “Human smuggling ventures, whether paid for or made by a friend or family member are subject to criminal and civil penalties.”

Mariners should file a float plan, tell someone where they are going and when they are returning, and be in possession of a VHF radio.

Gonzalez is being investigated further.


New Curfew and Social Gathering Restrictions for North and South Bimini

The government has implemented a daily 7 pm to 5 am curfew for North and South Bimini, beginning Thursday night to assist in controlling the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases on the island.

Why it matters

Bimini Island has a total of 173 cases of COVID-19. On Monday, health officials revealed that 11 new cases on the island were linked to clusters at a local resort.

Health Minister Renward Wells confirmed on Tuesday that a health team was deployed to the island to examine the new outbreaks and carry out vaccinations on the island.

The details

The newly amended Order provides for the following on North and South Bimini:

  • Social gatherings are prohibited.
  • Funeral services may be held at the graveside only, and are limited to a maximum of 10 people,  not including officiants and funeral service workers.
  • Services are subject to physical distancing and any other health protocols issued by the Bahamas Christian Council and approved by the Ministry of Health.
  • Weddings are permitted in a church, a facility or outdoors provided that the number of attendees is limited to 10, including the officiant, and that all attendees wear masks.
  • Wedding receptions are prohibited.
  • Church services may be held daily between 6 am and 6 pm in accordance with physical distancing and other health protocols provided by the Bahamas Christian Council and approved by the Ministry of Health.
  • All bars are prohibited from operating.
  • Groups are limited to a maximum of five persons on beaches and parks.
  • Hotel and cruise ship guests will be required to remain on the premises of the hotel or cruise ship during the curfew period. Hotel and cruise ship guests may also move between the hotel and marina, to the extent the marina is part of the premises of the hotel, during the curfew period.


Bimini Resort Linked to Recent COVID-19 Spike

After a lull in COVID-19 cases on Bimini, the island is again seeing a spike in infections, which health officials believe is linked to a major resort on the island.

Minister of Health Renward Wells told reporters on Tuesday that a surveillance team was dispatched to the island to investigate the recent jump in cases there.

Though he did not identify the links to the new cases on the island, health officials said on Sunday that the cases “indicate evidence of clustering that is linked to a local resort”.

The report did not identify the resort, but speculations arose that the Resorts World Bimini may have been the source of the new cases.

When contacted by the Nassau Guardian, the resort did not respond to reports of the spike at the resort only to say that it has implemented measures to ensure the safety of its team members, community, and its guests and to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Although progress has been made in reducing the spread of the disease, it is far from over. Now is not the time to let our guard down,” the resort’s Vice President of Human Resources David Winslow said.

On condition of anonymity, one of its newest recruits told CSJ Report that she was set to begin work at the resort on Monday, but the Resorts World Bimini delayed her employment due to the rise in COVID cases.

The woman said she was told that the resort made changes to the living arrangements as a result of the spike in cases, as employees usually shared housing.

Employees were placed in individual housing to prevent clusters.

The woman said the resort told her that she would be able t begin employment in about two weeks.

The big picture

Six new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Monday, bringing the total number of cases on that island to 166.

Bimini was the first island to be placed on lockdown last year when COVID-19 cases roared in the country.

The country’s first COVID-19 related death was a woman from that island.


Coast Guards End Search. 20 People Onboard Boat from Bimini Missing

The US Coast Guard suspended its search for 20 people on board a 29-foot vessel that left Bimini for Florida, but never made it.

Officials say the blue and white 29-foot Mako Cuddy Cabin vessel reportedly left Bimini, Bahamas on Monday with 20 passengers and was expected to arrive in Lake Worth, Florida.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the missing people. I encourage anyone with information about the people aboard to contact us as soon as possible,” said Captain Stephen Burdian, Seventh District Chief of Response.”

Coast guard authorities said they along with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue Association searched nearly 17,000 square miles of sea, for about three days, with no trace of the vessel.

A family member of someone on board the vessel alerted authorities in the Bahamas after a relative on board the vessel did not call alerting that they had arrived in Florida, according to Petty Officer Third Class Jose Hernandez. 

Hernandez told the Sun-Sentinel, “We don’t care if they’re illegals or drug trafficking,” Hernandez said. “We don’t want any lives lost at sea.”

What is not known

  • why the boat was going to Florida
  • which part of Lake Worth Beach it was headed to
  • the names and nationalities of those on board

Bimini’s ‘Reckless’ Partygoers Can Set the Country Back

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the actions taken by partygoers in Bimini over the weekend is simply “irresponsible,” as the country tries to reopen.

Minnis told The Guardian “Something like that can set us back.”

The video, which made the rounds on social media shows a large crowd on a beach, where attendees wore no masks nor practiced social distancing. Attendees stood closely together, singing and dancing.

When asked if he would consider reimposing restrictions on Bimini, though not direct, Minnis said a decision would be based on data.

Why it matters?

Bimini reported 11 new cases on Sunday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Family Islands. Restrictions like weekday curfew and weekend 24-hour lockdowns were imposed on Eleuthera and Exuma after these islands saw high cases of the virus.

Bimini shares a total of 74 COVID-19 with Cat Cay.


Police has citated the organisers and partygoers of the event.

Bimini Partygoers Ticketed as COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket on the Island

Bimini police issued tickets to a large group of young people seen in a video violating the COVID-19 emergency order while attending a beach party on that island.

The video, which made the rounds on social media shows a crowd on a beach, where attendees wore no masks nor practiced social distancing. Attendees stood closely together, singing and dancing.

The deejay is seemingly in defiance of the protocols, stating, “It’s after 12. Bimini ain’t on no curfew. Nassau on curfew. It’s after 12. We are in Bimini.”

Why it matters?

The island has a total of 74 COVID-19 cases to date, with 11 new cases reported on Sunday.

The big picture

  • Back in May, a two-week lockdown was imposed after cases skyrocketed on the island and it was deemed a ‘hotspot.’ Officials believed the lockdown measures curtailed the increase and flattened the curve on that island.
  • The island recorded the country’s first coronavirus death, 57-year-Kim Johnson, who died after being airlifted to New Providence. She later tested positive for the virus.

What police say

  • The party was at Radio Beach, in Alice Town, held on Saturday night.
  • Party-goers were not given permission to hold the party.
  • The hosts and attendees were ticketed, and police are looking to identify the others to serve citations.
  • Police say these actions will not be tolerated and they will enforce the law.

It remains to be seen if the island will be placed on a second lockdown as cases rise again.