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(506) 223-1327           Published Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 12             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Bodies of U.S. couple and crashed plane found
By Saray Ramírez Vindas and Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 2:55 p.m. Tuesday)

Searchers have found the place where a U.S.-registered light plane crashed Sunday east of San José.

Jorge Rovira, who headed the search for the Cruz Roja, confirmed via cell telephone that the two U.S. citizens on the plane are dead. They are Conrad and Nancy Randell, husband and wife of Des Moines, Iowa.

The site was on the slope of the Volcán Irazú not far from the transmission tower of
television station Channel 13. The land is called Finca Irazú in San Juan de Chicúa.

Searchers have been in the area since the possible crash was reported Sunday morning. They were hampered for two days by rainy weather.  Searchers said the plane, a 1952 Beechcraft Bonanza, was destroyed.

In addition to the Cruz Roja, the Cuerpos de Bomberos, the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, the Aviación Civil and Vigilancia Aerea, which is connected to the ministry, conducted the search.

Earlier story HERE!

Rescuers save man trapped in flooded house

Cruz Roja photos/Carlos Rodríguez
One of the principal streets of Siquirres

Nation is slammed again by Mother Nature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unseasonal rains along the Caribbean slope and the Northern Zone have swept away at least one person, chased families from their homes and impeded a Cruz Roja search effort to find an Iowa couple whose plane was lost near Volcán Irazú Sunday.

Flooding from the rains caused one man, 45-year-old Ramiro Madriz Borgue, to lose control of the vehicle he was driving near Río Tibás at Calle Chavez in San Isidro de Heredia.  Rescue workers were able to find his companion, but Madriz is still missing, said the Cruz Roja.

Plane search unsuccessful . . . HERE!

The bad weather may have been the reason 69-year-old Conrad Randell and his wife Nancy crashed their plane near Volcán Irazú.  Rescue workers finished their first full day searching for the missing couple Monday.  But the weather grounded any aerial searches. 

The rain has caused the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias to issue a yellow alert along many regions of the Caribbean slope.  The alert falls to the communities along the Frío, Reventazón, Pacuare, Barbilla and La Estrella rivers and also the Sixaola river near Margarita. 

The engorged rivers have caused 717 persons in Sarapiquí, Matina, Limón center and
Talamanca to evacuate their homes, said the emergency commission.  These people have taken refuge in 10 temporary shelters, four of which are in Sarapiquí, the commission said.  Four more are in Matina, and the Escuela de Los Lirios in Limón centro and the Colegio Técnico in Bribri de Talamanca have each been converted into shelters, the emergency commission said. 

The number of persons in shelters could increase now that authorities from the emergency commission have decided to evacuate Sixaola and Siquirres.  Since Monday morning, officers with the Fuerza Pública and workers from the Cruz Roja have been evacuating residents from Sixaola as a preventative measure.  Residents in Siquirres may have to evacuate as well, the emergency commission said. 

According to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, weather conditions in the country are forecasted to stay unstable until Friday.  As a result, emergency commission officials are urging citizens in risk zones to stay alert. 

In addition, the southern part of the cold front is now hitting the country.  As a result, rains will continue to fall throughout the Northern Zone, the Caribbean slope and the Central Valley and temperatures will stay relatively low, the weather institute said. Monday morning, the weather institute said the rainfall in Limón over the preceeding two days had been greater than the average rainfall for January.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 12

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It's not the highways,
RITEVE says of vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The company that has the vehicle inspection monopoly and the transportation ministry say that the public opinion is wrong: the bad roads have little to do with failing revisión tecnica.

In a statement the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said those vehicles failing the inspection for possible roadway-related reasons were in the single digits. The primary cause of failure, said a report from RITEVE SyC, the company, is due to excessive emission of exhaust.

Contrary to the general belief, the roads have little to do with the condition of vehicles, said the company. In 2005 only 9 percent of the vehicles were failed for steering problems and only 8.5 for suspension and axle problems, the company said. Both these conditions could be related to the roadways, the company said.

There was no mention of road damage to exhaust systems.

The company added that the failures for steering problems were 3 percent lower than in 2004.

The topic came up when the minister, Randall Quirós, met with members of the Movimiento Civico, which sought the suspension of the inspections as a requirement for paying the annual road tax. The group had a protest Monday at the ministry in San José.

RITEVE figures say that brakes are another reason vehicles are rejected. Quirós said that 2005 was the year with the fewest number of road deaths at 278 since 1998, suggesting that the decrease was due to the strict RITEVE inspection.

At the same time, the ministry said that some $90.8 million of 45 billion colons were being invested in the nation's highways. The new San Carlos highway will cost $61 million and work has begun there, said the ministry. The InterAmerican highway from El Roble to Caldera and Quepos to Barú should begin in the first months of the year at pricetags of $4.2 million and $17.6 million, it said.

Much of the nation's highway system was heavily damaged by the series of hurricanes that brushed past the country in 2005.
Internet site enlisted
to find animals homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An animal shelter in Atenas has enlisted the help of the Internet in finding homes for the many cats and dogs that have passed through its doors in its 18-month existence.

Faro Rescate Animale is the brainchild of Frances Jones.  The shelter is an extension of one she ran for six years in Florida called Lighthouse Animal Rescue.  Now her facility is listed on petfinder.com, a service that places animals with new owners.

Ms. Jones said that her former facility placed between 80 and 90 percent of their animals through petfinder.com.  Now she has brought the service to Costa Rica.  Once potential owners find their way to Ms. Jones' shelter, she has them fill out an extensive application in order to make sure the dog or cat will be placed in a caring home.  After a $30 fee that covers spaying, neutering or other veterinary bills, the animal goes to its new home, she said. 

However, some animals are not placeable, she said.  They are too aggressive or mean so she spays or neuters them, takes care of any veterinary needs the animal may have, and returns it to the streets.  This may sound harsh, but Ms. Jones said that the streets of Costa Rica are generally kinder to animals than those of the United States. 

“People feed them in the parks, or butchers toss them food,” she said.

Currently Ms. Jones has four animals up for adoption, she said.  But she also needs foster homes.  She only has space for so many animals so she must find temporary homes for dogs and cats that are waiting to be permanently placed, she said.

For more information, contact the Faro Rescate Animale at imissebony@yahoo.com. 
Photo exhibit shows
effort needed to vote

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new photography exhibit documents the extent Costa Ricans will go to make sure their votes are heard.

Guillermo Solano of the Ministerio de Gobernación y Seguridad Pública has an exhibition of 52 photographs in the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones that will stay there through the elections in February. 

The exhibit covers democracy throughout Costa Rica but focuses on the efforts of Cabécares Indians in Talamanca – some of which walk barefoot through the jungle for three days to vote. 

The exhibit also focuses on the efforts of the workers of the Tribunal to set up voting booths in the most rural parts of the country.  Sometimes a helicopter is necessary.  The exhibition will be on display through Feb. 6. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 12

Missing plane still eludes searchers on second day
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first full day of searching for a missing Des Moines, Iowa, couple and their plane ended Monday night unsuccessfully. 

Searchers with the Cruz Roja have been scanning a five-mile radius area for Conrad and Nancy Randell at the plane's last known location near Pacayas before it lost radio contact with Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas – its scheduled landing area.  That happened Sunday morning, and 70 persons in six groups have been searching the unforgiving terrain near Volcán Irazú ever since.  A farmer there said he saw the plane come in at a low altitude and heard an impact, but couldn't spot the crash site.   

One of the searchers is the couple's son Conrad II.  His wife, Erica, is a native of Costa Rica, and the couple lived here for two years before recently moving back north to Des Moines, Iowa.  The daughter-in-law said that due to the turbulent weather, any aerial searches for the couple have remained grounded.  She also said that eight crews will return to the slopes of the volcano this morning to continue searching. 

Jorge Rovira, subdirector of Socorros y Operaciones with the Cruz Roja confirmed her statements.  Monday, crews descended on the area through different routes, Rovira said.  One entered near Guápiles and followed the Río Sucio and Río Blanco to Irazú.  Nothing was found. 

Rovira is hopeful that crews can continue searching with areal support today.  A search plane with the U.S. National Aeronautical and Space Administration is joining the efforts, searchers said.  

According to Angela Gwinn of Brecksville, Ohio, one of the couple's three children, Nancy and Conrad were alone on the plane.  They were flying through

Conrad and Nancy Randell

Latin America and Mexico on a two-week trip with
the Baja Bush Pilots, a national group of recreational pilots that has sponsored the trip for more than 25 years, Mrs. Gwinn said. 

Although this was their first time on the trip, the couple had been to Costa Rica before.  The 69-year-old Wes, as Conrad is known to friends, has been flying since he was 16 years old, Mrs. Gwinn said. 

The Volcan Irazú is about 15 miles east of San José. The area was draped in low clouds Sunday when the plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, is presumed to have gone down.

The Irazú Volcano is 3,432 meters high at the summit. That's 11,260 feet.

The man who may be a U.S. citizen lived up to his name on the streets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They called him Gringo Loco. No one knows if he really was a U.S. citizen, and they won't know until morgue officials get a positive identification, perhaps today.

Out on the street where everyone has an assumed name, he was just another crackhead and hustler. But he lived up to being loco Saturday afternoon when he provoked and died in a shootout at the Mercado del Paso de la Vaca.

If he is a Gringo, he is testimony to the stranglehold drugs can put on a one-time tourist or visitor and drag him into rough sections of San José and a rougher life.

Police say it was a dispute over crack cocaine that led to a shootout in which Gringo Loco and another man died. The gunplay also hurt a guard and a bystander.

Gringo Loco was a habitue of the Paso de la Vaca barrio and died there at Calle 8 and Avenida 7.
 Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization concluded from his street name that the man was a
U. S. citizen, but an autopsy Monday will confirm his identity.

Agents said that 29-year-old José Alexander Jiménez Muñoz and the Gringo Loco were engaged in a drug deal when the Gringo Loco pulled a 9 mm pistol and shot Jiménez in the stomach.  Jiménez managed to run away, but a mob of his friends began looking for Gringo Loco who tried to hide in the sprawling market, investigators said.

As he ran through the market with his gun in hand, a guard, Kelvin Flores Madrigal, confronted him and shot him in the stomach, agents said.  Gringo Loco returned fire and shot the guard in the arm, investigators said.  In the exchange, 56-year-old Carlos Manuel Bejarano López was also wounded.   

Jiménez, known as Tito, and Gringo Loco died at the scene.  The other two were taken to the hospital, investigators said. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 12

U.N. meeting seeks to help small island states cope
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Western Hemispheric body of the United Nations is holding an environmental policy meeting in Trinidad and Tobago for the second day today. The delegates are focusing on ways to promote sustainable development in the nations of the Caribbean and other small island states worldwide.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said the meeting will examine ways to implement what is called the Mauritius Strategy for sustainable development in the small island states.

That strategy evolved from a January 2005 U.N. meeting held in Port Louis, Mauritius.  At that meeting, the global community said it was committed to helping small island nations in the Caribbean and elsewhere deal with their special concerns, such as vulnerabilities to natural and environmental disasters, exemplified by the December 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

Among the 50 participants expected at the meeting in Trinidad and Tobago's capital city of Port of Spain are Carlyle Corbin, the U.S. Virgin Islands' minister of state for external affairs, and José Luis Machinea, the commission's executive secretary.  Another participant is Knowlson Gift, Trinidad and Tobago's foreign affairs minister.

The United Nations said the Mauritius Strategy recognizes that "most small-island developing states, as a result of their smallness, and persistent structural
disadvantages and vulnerabilities, face specific
difficulties in integrating into the global economy."  The strategy also recognizes the importance of moving small-island developing states more fully into the deliberations and decision-making of the World Trade Organization."

The United States and the other nations involved in the Summit of the Americas process have expressed their support for addressing the special concerns of the small island states.  According to the Summit of the Americas' Plan of Action, these small states say that in addition to environmental vulnerability, threats to their security include illicit drug trafficking, the illegal trade in arms, increasing levels of crime and corruption, the transportation of nuclear waste and economic vulnerability — particularly in relation to trade, health threats such as HIV/AIDS and increased levels of poverty.

The Port of Spain meeting is discussing such topics as "Prospects for Partnership in Addressing Caribbean Development Challenges" and "Achieving the [U.N.] Millennium Development Goals in the Caribbean."  Those eight goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. 

The Caribbean development committee is a subregional body with 23 members.  It includes the governments of the Dominican Republic, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and the 15 Caribbean countries that form the group known as Caricom.  The Caribbean development committee meets once every two years.

U.S. lists hurricane disaster toll and contributions
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. government has contributed more than $21 million in relief aid to the victims of hurricanes in Mexico and Central America, reports the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In a fact sheet updating U.S. efforts to aid the hurricane victims, USAID said the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season brought an unprecedented 13 hurricanes to the region, devastating parts of Central America and southern Mexico.

Two hurricanes, Stan and Beta, along with Tropical Storm Gamma, devastated parts of Central America and Southern Mexico.  The U.S. Agency for International Development has contributed more than $14 million to these countries in relief and reconstruction aid. 

Through USAID and the Department of Defense, the total U.S. Government contribution to the affected region has been more than $21 million to the affected areas, including Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The fact sheet listed these contributions:

In Guatemala, Tropical Storm Stan killed 669 in early October and affected approximately 475,000 people. The U.S. provided more than $10 million in humanitarian assistance for relief items, airlifts, helicopter support, emergency activities and food aid.
In Mexico in October, two hurricanes hit, killing 23 people and affecting more than 2 million people. USAID has provided $600,000 for the purchase of relief items. In addition, USAID has provided $50,000 to help 200 farmers recover from damage in time to harvest this year's crop.

In El Salvador, two simultaneous emergencies — severe flooding from Tropical Storm Stan and the eruption of the Santa Ana Volcano — killed 69 people and initially displaced 26,000 people. USAID provided $200,000 to purchase relief supplies and to aid emergency relief activities. The agency is providing $400,000 for food aid and $500,000 to finance small-scale infrastructure improvements.

In Honduras in late October, Hurricane Beta flooded the northeastern departments of the country displacing thousands. In mid-November, Tropical Storm Gamma killed 32 people and forced the evacuation of 30,000 in the northern departments.
The aid agency provided more than $500,000 for the purchase and distribution of relief supplies, helicopter fuel to transport relief items, and locally contracted relief flights.

In Nicaragua in October, flooding from Tropical Storm Stan and Hurricane Beta severely affected thousands. In response to both disasters, The United States provided a total of nearly $500,000 for relief supplies, helicopter fuel, air support, and a locally contracted helicopter.

Jo Stuart
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