A man and woman missing for two weeks likely died after a car accident in the Dominican Republic, authorities said. Although their bodies were found within days of the accident, family and friends are only now learning what happened to them.
The National Police believe the car Orlando Moore and Portia Ravenelle were in plunged into the ocean in the early hours of March 27 as they were on their way to catch a flight home.
A body fitting the description of Moore was found at sea in an advanced stage of decomposition and Ravenelle was found alive — but she died in the ICU eight days later, police say.
“She had to die by herself,” family friend Francesca Figueroa told CNN. “When one of us could have been there holding her hand.”
Friends with Moore for about 25 years, Figueroa says she thinks of him as family. Both Moore and Ravenelle, friends who worked together, spent the night before their trip to the Dominican Republic at Figueroa’s having dinner and watching a movie.
“Two silly individuals, two happy-go-lucky people, always trying to help people, that’s who they are,” Figueroa said.
They were due back in New York on March 27 at 5:45 a.m., Figueroa said. When they didn’t return, Figueroa says her family started looking for them.
Figueroa said she spoke to a US Embassy representative on March 31 who told her “no bodies were found, there were no dead bodies reported, no accidents, no one was in jail.”
She said she was relieved. Perhaps they were just lost.
But on Tuesday, she learned that her friends likely were in a car accident on the way to the airport to go back home.
“I am saddened it took this many days to find out,” Figueroa said.
Authorities are working to confirm the identities
Airport surveillance cameras show that the couple never made it inside the airport building on the day of their flight.
Authorities said there was no evidence of foul play.
Fishermen reported seeing a vehicle at the bottom of the sea, but because of rough conditions, divers have not been able to identify the vehicle, National Police Col. Frank Félix Durán Mejia told CNN affiliate Telesistema.
Duran Mejia said an unconscious woman, who fits the description of Ravenelle, was found on the road to the international airport in Santo Domingo on March 27. She died in the Darío Contreras Hospital eight days later on April 4.
“The protocol we conduct in these cases is to take a picture of the patient or the unknown patient and we give it to the media so that family members can contact us,” hospital spokesperson Darío Mañón told Telesistema.
On March 31, the body of a man fitting the description of Moore was found at sea near Sans Souci, Duran Mejia said.
The body was found in an advanced stage of decomposition and had a tattoo that read “Milano” on its right arm, police said.
Figueroa confirmed to the police on Tuesday that Moore has a tattoo with his daughter’s name, “Milan,” on his arm.
The bodies have not been positively identified and autopsies are pending.
But family members and friends are expecting the worst.
“Everybody is devastated. Everybody is devastated,” Figueroa said. “His daughter is devastated, everybody is devastated, as I am, as my husband, as the mayor, as everybody in this town is because he’s well known in this town. You go on the corner, and everybody knows Orlando.”
They planned to drive at night for early morning flight
Cheryl Freeman and her boyfriend said that they spent time with Moore and Ravenelle while on vacation in the resort town of Samana. Freeman said that Moore and Ravenelle had a 2 a.m. flight and were driving a rental car to the airport.
Ravenelle expressed anxiety about driving at night and said the rental company warned them to not stop and open their windows for anyone because the locals know which cars are rentals and try to mug tourists, Freeman said.
Ravenelle repeatedly asked Moore if he was sure they had enough gas to make it to the airport. She kept checking to make sure their phones were charged enough to use the GPS, Freeman said.
After the couple left Freeman’s boyfriend sent Moore an email wishing them a safe flight.
He never heard back from him.
Freeman said she did not realize the couple had gone missing until she returned home to Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 31 and discovered several emails from Ravenelle’s family.