3 Americans, including married couple, drown while vacationing with children in Turks and Caicos
Three American tourists, identified as a Texas couple and their family friend, died in a tragic accident Monday while swimming with their children in Turks and Caicos.
Irma Barrera, 34, and Roy Perez, 38, of Lake Jackson, were visiting the Caribbean island with their 15-year-old daughter, their friend, Dr. Richard Okoloise, and his young daughter when the incident took place.
The group of five was exploring Bambarra Beach on the sparsely populated island of Middle Caicos when they got caught in a riptide "fueled by high winds," AFP reports.
Island residents said the two families may have been trying to swim the half-mile distance through shallow water from Bambarra Beach to nearby Pelican Cay at the time.
Officers of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force responding to a report of a drowning Monday rescued the two female minors from the water before discovering Barrera's body washed ashore around 2 p.m., according to a statement.
The remains of one of the adult male victims was recovered several hours later, while the third victim's body was found on Tuesday with assistance from the U.S. Coastguard.
The two children were temporarily placed in the care of island social workers following their parents' deaths.
"This was a tragic loss of life and obviously all of us are asking every question we can about what went wrong," police commissioner Trevor Botting said. "Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone, most especially the children involved."
"We live in a world filled with many bad things, but we still have good Samaritans," he added. "I would like to thank those who came to the aide of the children and everyone who were a part of the search and rescue, this includes volunteers, our Emergency Response Teams and the U.S. Coastguard Helicopter crew."
Okoloise, an emergency medicine doctor in Angleton, Texas, was remembered as an "amazing ER physician and family man" by a woman who identified herself as a friend and colleague of the victim.
"He loved medicine, traveling, and his family," Annamarie Kilgore wrote on Facebook. "I will miss his ridiculous talks. However, I’m thankful he was called while being in his favorite place in the world. He always told me 'if I ever disappear after a lottery win, I’ll be hiding in Turks and Caicos.'"
Perez was also remembered on social media as a beloved family man and a "class clown" with a great sense of humor.
"Every picture with your family always brought a smile," former classmate Victor Mendieta wrote on Facebook. "I remember about a year ago you messaged me saying that you were proud of me. Yet today I want to say how proud I am of you. Your daughters adore you man! Your daughters will forever be in my prayers. May You & your Wife Rest In Peace."
Friends of Barrera, who worked as a nurse at Angleton Emergency Room, and Perez started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the cost of their funeral arrangements. It has since raised more than $10,500 of its $15,000 goal. The pair is survived by their three young daughters.