After five days of searching, the fate of a UCSB student’s father, 55-year-old John Huber, is unknown after he was lost at sea last week in Central American waters.
Last Wednesday, John Huber and his son, senior English major Daniel Huber, who is studying Spanish at the Wayra Spanish Institute in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, took two kayaks less than a mile offshore to snorkel. On the trip back to shore, a strong current began to pull both men out to sea. The two decided Daniel would paddle back to shore and return with help for his father.
Daniel returned in approximately an hour, however, his father could not be found, mother Denise Huber said. Elizabeth Huber, Daniel’s sister and UCSB alumna, said Daniel returned on a three-man kayak with a rescue team to find his father.
“They were coming back from snorkeling. It had been nice all day long and then all of a sudden the weather turned really bad and my dad’s kayak began flipping,” she said. “He physically exhausted himself and that’s when they decided Dan would go and get help.”
United States Embassy in Costa Rica Spokesperson Marcia Bosshardt said the embassy was contacted Thursday morning regarding John Huber’s disappearance.
“[Daniel] contacted us and requested assistance. When any U.S. citizen requests help, we provide any assistance they may need,” she said. “We’ve been working closely with the Costa Rican government. Beginning on Thursday we contacted the Air Section, which are the guys who are doing the flying over the search points looking for Dan’s father and we also contacted the Costa Rican Coast Guard.”
Bosshardt said search points are being provided by the Coast Guard in the U.S.
“We contacted the Coast Guard in Alameda and Miami and provided them with information such as the weight of John, the time of day of the incident, the current at the time and all kinds of details like that,” she said. “They enter that information into their computer program and the program provides information on where [John] would be located, so the search teams concentrate on those areas.”
Denise Huber, who arrived in Costa Rica on Sunday, said the family is not giving up hope on the recovery of John, who was in good shape and physically fit at the time of his disappearance.
“The locals here have been wonderful. Everybody in Tamarindo have been helping us search, taking care of hotel rooms, providing us, and the crews who are searching, with food. Everyone is letting us use their phones and fax machines. People who have boats have dropped their businesses to help search, people are walking along the beach looking,” she said. “We need all the help we can get because we’ve just had to expand our search to such a large area. With such a terrible situation, everyone is helping us out and being overly generous, especially the Red Cross people, this is now their own time. Everyone here is tired, but nobody is giving up.”
“Daniel has handled everything wonderfully,” Denise Huber said. “Everyone here is really surprised of how he has managed – with help – to organize land, sea and air searches. Daniel did everything right, even though at this point our search has been unsuccessful.”
Walter Sarape, assistant operator for the Costa Rican Red Cross, said the search began on Wednesday, immediately after John’s disappearance, but they are now forced to call it off.
“We stopped the operation today at 1500 hours. We don’t have the ships for the high sea and we can’t fly,” he said. “We only conduct the operations for five days.”
UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said in a written statement that he wishes the Huber family the best.
“I join the entire UCSB community in hope that John Huber, father of student Daniel Huber, will be found safe and in good health following this tragic turn of events,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Daniel, his mother Denise and the Huber family at this moment.”
Since rescue efforts in Costa Rica are limited, the Huber family is hiring private companies to help. ETranslate, the San Francisco-based computer company John Huber works for, has donated money towards a rescue fund, senior sociology major and Daniel Huber’s girlfriend Lindsay Biren said.
“Basically, we don’t want the search to end unless there is some evidence that John has been killed,” she said.
Those interested in making a donation should make their checks payable to Liz Huber and mail it to the John Huber Fund, 1875 South Bascom Ave., Box #116-190, Campbell, CA 95008.