Since publishing my story about being abandoned at sea by a negligent captain, I've been bullied, threatened, and intimidated into either keeping my mouth shut or changing my story.
That's life on the island. That's life in Honduras.
But I'm not going to change my story.
What I wrote about my experience being lost at sea is 100 percent authentic. I've got no motivation to lie. My professional reputation is not at risk, like it would be for Nic Bach, the director of communications and marine infrastructure at the marine park, and the person responsible for organizing our ill-fated dive trip. I don't have a local business to protect, like Roatan Divers, the guys who knew for hours that our lives were in danger before summoning help, ostensibly to protect their reputation, putting dollars before divers and thinking that they could solve the problem themselves. And I don't rely on tourists for funding, like Roatan Marine Park, an organization that would suffer if tourism to the island slipped, a plausible outcome if people thought that diving here could put their life in danger. Honduras already has a troubling reputation for violence and murder. The island's subpar safety standards (e.g. good luck finding marine radios here) don't do it any additional favors.
After I published my account, Divers Alert Network, the industry leader in dive safety and dive medicine, reached out to me to request that I share my story more widely. I wrote a story for Divers Alert Network that will be published soon in their quarterly magazine, Alert Diver.
Before I published my initial account, I requested, both in person and in writing, a transparent debrief with the marine park, in an effort to share our experience more widely so that others could learn from our mistakes. I emailed the top two directors at the marine park, one of whom is Giacomo Palavicini, the executive director of the marine park and Nic's boss, and the other of whom is Nic Bach, the aforementioned director of communications and marine infrastructure, and the dive leader for our trip. I made debrief requests to both of them individually, in person, face to face, before and after submitting a request in writing. My written and verbal requests were ignored and rejected, by both Giaco and Nic.
It was only after I published my account that the marine park, specifically Nic, wanted to get more involved. When it became clear to him that his efforts to silence me had failed, he took his local influence to Facebook while simultaneously declining an actual debrief. My interest in transparency was not to point fingers, but to prevent future incidents. (In my initial post, I didn't mention a single person by name. It was only after having been dragged through the mud publicly and privately, and threatened personally, that I chose to be more transparent about those involved.) I wrote to the marine park, "I think in order for people to best learn from this experience, it's important that the narrative is both complete and accurate."
The marine park ignored this request.
Five weeks after our incident, and less than a month after my request for transparency, another person on our island (18-year-old male kayaker) was nearly killed due to poor safety standards. His life was saved only with the aid of a United States military rescue, and a helicopter that plucked him from the ocean after a night alone at sea. Had our situation weeks earlier been followed by a comprehensive and transparent debrief, the results of which were then shared widely within our community, maybe this guy doesn't get himself into trouble that day. Maybe the next guy will not be so lucky.
Accountability is rare on this island. People do what they want, and oftentimes there are no consequences. That is not surprising to people who know Roatán, but it is still disappointing. After emergencies, it's important to speak up and understand what happened. Do not hide the truth. But we're talking about an island where you can be murdered and forgotten in the same week.
After an emergency, it is cowardly to reject a comprehensive and transparent debrief. In diving, such debriefs are standard protocol, even for fake emergencies during training exercises. Facebook is a poor forum for debriefing an emergency situation, and regardless it is pointless if it doesn't include everyone involved, which it did not. At best, it was an unprofessional and poor decision by Nicholas Christian Bach. At worst, it was an intentionally manipulative decision. Based on the personal conversations that I've had with Nic, and the things that he has said to me privately before turning around and saying something different publicly, I'm confident in my opinion that his goal was to intentionally manipulate the narrative via his power and influence on the island. I'm also disappointed in Giacomo Palavicini, the executive director and Nic's boss.
This island wants peace, quiet, and tourist dollars. Truth and safety are secondary.