It happens all over the world. People go missing, sometimes of their own accord and sometimes not, but it happens. Sometimes these people are found or return home when their walkabout is over and they can then give an account of the circumstances that led to their disappearance. Unfortunately, there are too many friends and families of the missing who never receive that kind of closure. Such is the case of the two young Dutch women who went missing in Boquete, Panama. Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, ages 22 and 21 respectively, disappeared on or around April 2, 2013 after indicating that they were going to hike the trail known as El Pianista. They were seen on the road near the trailhead at about 2pm, but never again. There have been no signs of them since that day. What happened? Where did they go? Who, if anyone, is responsible for their disappearance? These are the questions that people in two countries are asking, and specialists in law enforcement and search and rescue are desperate for answers.
When It Began
According to sources that included local hoteliers and the girls’ families, the girls had been in Boquete for approximately two weeks. They had stayed at a local hostel, Spanish by the River, and were taking an intensive Spanish course in preparation for local volunteer work. When they left the hostel on the afternoon in question, they took little that would indicate that they were planning anything but a hike. Search efforts were not launched until approximately forty eight hours later, which has led to some criticism of the Panamanian authorities for not acting quickly enough. Several groups of Boquete locals, including myself, set out to search the hiking trails in the area, but found no sign of the young women. Helicopter searches of the area were performed, and professional climbers canvassed in and around El Pianista trail with no results.
Two Months Later
Nearly two months have passed and the girls’ smiling faces are still visible on the missing posters all over the town of Boquete. Candlelight vigils have been held as Boquete locals have joined with the families of the girls to pray for their safe return. Specially trained search dogs have been flown in from the Netherlands to aid in the efforts.
But they’ve found nothing. There are no traces of these two young and adventurous women. However, rumors spread like wildfire in this small town, which does little to help an investigation and ultimately hinders it. Tabloid style websites and newspapers have published information that has ranged from the discovery of bodies to the statement from a medium that the girls were underwater. Unfortunately, the spread of misinformation leaves people unable to discern facts from falsehoods, and creates an atmosphere of hysteria that detracts from the task at hand. So many people want these girls to be found, but as more and more time passes the possibility of that diminishes.
Many more questions exist, but the most pressing one right now surrounds the search efforts and how they will proceed. The families and friends of Kris and Lisanne have been tirelessly raising money to fund the search. They have hired private investigation teams and offered a substantial reward for information leading to the girls’ whereabouts, but all efforts seem to be in vain.
The Panamanian authorities seem to have hit a wall, as well. While there have been many criticisms of the way that they’ve handled the search, the fact remains that much of the country of Panama is uninhabited and remote, with dense forests and jungles that are often impenetrable. This is not an easy place to search for two lost girls. Additionally, by traveling overland one can be beyond Panama’s borders in as little as ninety minutes from the Boquete area, so the possibility exists that Costa Rica needs to be the focus of a search as well. Unfortunately, there are too many questions and not enough answers, even after sixty days have passed since the disappearance. As a resident of Boquete I’ve been saddened by this case, as most of Boquete has been. It’s been difficult knowing that the girls’ parents are here as well, doing what they can to find their daughters or even the smallest shred of information about them. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that time is no longer on their side. Photos courtesy of Radio Chiriqui unless otherwise indicated. Visit their Facebook page for more information.