Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thank You Costa Rica

The people of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica were extraordinarily helpful in the many months I have been there. Especially the miners, the Park Rangers of Corcovado National Park and others who make their living in the forest, as well as the OIJ and local police.

Traveling the trails with them I learned about the animals, the plants, the trees, and the geography. I made more than twenty trips into the forest over the course of two years, spending several weeks camping there. We saw many terciopelo, otherwise known as the fer-de-lance, and eyelash palm pit-vipers.

Rarely did any of these people travel off-trail and when they did, they used their machete to clear a path, both to uncover possible snakes and to leave a path to follow back as it is easy to get lost, especially in Corcovado's mountainous "Las Quebraditas".

I travelled with one local Tico man whose father had died in two hours from the bite of a terciopelo; another  Tico whose brother died from the bite of a bushmaster.

Others told me of men killed by falling trees. In fact, I myself witnessed two huge tree falls -- trees over 150 feet tall that crashed in the forest. Falling tropical hardwood crowns can be lethal if they strike the unwary, and knowing when and where they fall is impossible to predict.

Tree falls are like the avalanches of the rainforest, only worse. There is no equivalent to digging a pit to test for stability, no courses to take or books to read to predict what leads to their likelihood of toppling, other than wind and rainstorms

I was always especially fearful during rainstorms when wet dead wood fell with heavy epiphyte burdens.

At least five times I have witnessed enormous but otherwise healthy trees fall.

In the late 1990s a famous California tree climber and I made a traverse between two redwood trees each 300 feet tall. The following year I returned to find that one of the 300 foot tall trees had toppled, leaving its six foot top speared into the forest floor.

In Borneo's Imbak Canyon we climbed to the top of a 75 m Dipterocarp tree, returning the next day to find it toppled.

Another time along Sabah's Kinabatangan River I watched a large mango tree split in two and slowly peel away next to a river house, but was able to warn the inhabitants only minutes before the tree split and ripped the wall off their house exposing the room inside.

In 2015 near Dos Brazos we watched during a storm as the winds toppled over twenty trees, some up to two feet across.

The steep mountains of Corcovado also are very active with landslides, particularly in the wet season. These range from small sloughs to entire hillsides.

I am very grateful to the rangers and miners and others I walked through the forest with. I was very impressed with their willingness to expose themselves to these dangers as well as the discomfort of the 100% humidity in the forest, the high heat, the strong, surprisingly cold downpours, the chiggers and biting insects, especially when camping at night.

Many from the OIJ and another Tico from the American Embassy were particularly impressive to me, as these were men and one woman who generally spend time behind a desk, but came out and struggled with us in and out of canyons, up and down waterfalls, off trail and on, sometimes trapped by darkness and walking down the middle of creeks to stay protected from snakes.

While many Osa locals accused certain other local Osa Ticos of being involved with our son's disappearance, I did not at first believe them.

The details of the Gringo seen with these locals -- with only a few possibly bad people involved -- simply did not fit what I knew of our son or his plans.

However, ultimately the local Ticos themselves convinced me that local Tico troublemakers were involved.

I had thought for the first six weeks that Cody Roman was injured, lost, or  dead in the jungle. Local people tried to convince me otherwise, local people said he was the victim of foul play. And when my wife suggested that also, then I was ready to accept it.

But it looks like all of us, Ticos and Gringos alike, were wrong.

It's easy looking back to see things clearly. Much harder when looking forward.

I thank the Costa Rican people of the Osa for their empathy.

I consider them family.

And I thank them for their sacrifices and diligence, particularly in January, March and May of 2016 when the National Geographic sponsored investigation was finished, and the real generosity and helpfulness of Costa Ricans emerged.

Similarly in the early days, when two dozen Red Cross volunteers, local police, and Park Rangers risked the snakes, the falling trees, the landslides and flooding rivers to look for a foreigner.

Costa Rica is indeed a beautiful place, and nearly all of its people are both beautiful inside and out, with big, beautiful hearts.

Thank you Costa Rica.






25 comments:

  1. Roman,

    I don't know what to say.
    My heart grieves for you, Peggy and Jazz, and I've thought of you often the past two years.

    Thank you for taking the time to share the beauty that you experienced in the midst of heartache.
    I hope you are all able to move toward peace.

    -nathan

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  2. Peace be with you and your family.

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  3. I profiled another family, Roman and Luda Gimelfarb, whose son, David, went missing in Costa Rica's Rincon de la Vieja National Park in 2009, and have been following your family's sad story with great interest. I am so very sorry for your loss. No parent should have to endure the ordeal you have been through. The Gimelfarbs and several other families whose loved ones went missing in Costa Rica are still searching and won't give up. If nothing else, I think this National Geographic series is helping to shed light on the problem of missing persons worldwide and how poorly equipped our embassies are to help families. This is something that must change. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so sorry that this happened to your son-- it seems like he was a wonderful young man.

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    1. Dave, That's encouraging to hear that perhaps the show will help shed light on missing persons and how poorly equipped the embassies are to help. Besides our own hopeful reasons for accepting the partnership with the production, Peggy especially wanted to call attention to how challenging it can be to get things to happen in a case like this. In many ways, we are essentially on our own.

      I heard about the Gimelfarbs' situation the first day I arrived to the Osa Peninsula in 2014, and later read the excellent story you wrote. Their story really resonated with ours and there's almost no way that once we parents of the missing start looking that we can give up until we find out what actually happened.

      Yes, Roman was a wonderful young man, skilled and competent, with brains and much affection for his friends and family. I also appreciate the words you wrote in response to the troll on another post here.

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  4. To the family of Roman Cody Dial,
    There are no words to share that would comfort you in a time like this. As a parent I could never imagine what you have gone thru. Your son was a shining bright star in this continuing galaxy. We thank you for sharing your story and my family will forever remember the name Cody Roman Dial..

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  5. My heart goes out to you and your family. I watched the NatGEO series. Ultimately, in my mind it doesn't make sense that the backpack was found at the hostel and Cody's remains were found in the jungle...in an area that is a 5-6 hour hike in. Why would Cody have been that far into the jungle without his gear? When the backpack was inspected, there was sand on the bottom of the tent. Which seemed odd at the time, but then there is the story told by Parrot Foot about Cody spending a night on the beach. Another fact that cant be reconciled is that the location where the remains were found was so close to where Cody was actually seen by the miner. The miner said that he saw Cody with his backpack at that time. So how did the backpack get from that location in the jungle, back to the hostel? And why didn't anyone see Cody return to the hostel? And hadn't the area where he was found been searched extensively by various people and groups? The evidence just doesn't add up. I hope you continue to look for answers.

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    1. Thank you Kadio,

      I'll try to address some of your questions:

      The NGC show documents well Ken and Carson’s investigation, but doesn’t tell everything.

      For instance, Cody Roman’s bank records show where and how much money was spent. He bought a pack in San Jose just before heading to the Osa Peninsula. The backpack at the hostel was a “storage unit” for his clothes and equipment used to climb volcanoes and packraft rivers in Mexico and Guatemala. I didn't find out about the "new" backpack until March and production did not include that discovery in the show. In other words, he never did "go back to the hostel" and in fact was never with Pata Lora.

      The sand in his tent was from a camp on the west coast of Nicaragua where he was surfing.

      Finally, the rain forest is an incredibly complex, dynamic, and in the case of where he was found, convoluted landscape. Looking for anything there, particularly off-trail, is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

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    2. Thank you for the additional information.

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  6. I'm glad that atleast you know what happened & your sons remains were found. I wonder why there seems to be a strain between you & NG. Although they were on the wrong conclusion atleast they brought light to your sons disappearance. Do you feel you would have still gotten all this local assistance without NG? You admit yourself the locals & your wife thought there was foul play. I just don't understand going out of your way to thank local help when you were frustrated with them from the beginning. You may not have liked their investigator but at least NG was doing something. Not trying to debate just want to understand why you didn't seem to appreciate the documentary.

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    1. Solnor Foster,

      The strain was between me and the investigation, not between me and NG. I am very grateful for the help of everyone, including Carson Ulrich and Ken Fournier who put an enormous amount of effort into their investigation. But there was certainly strain when things that I knew to be true were dismissed.

      I'd hoped that the investigation would go somewhere other than the Pata Lora direction, as too many facts of the young man who'd travelled with "Joe" and the timing of the travel just didn't add up. Ultimately, I set aside my doubts and went fully with Carson's version of what happened, going so far as to report that story to both the OIJ in San Jose and the FBI in Washington DC.

      I respected Carson's expertise. Yes, NGC was doing something and I am grateful, it just wasn't always what I wanted them to be doing!

      It's very difficult in a situation like this to say no to people's help. First people WANT to help. And second any help at all feels welcome. But as in any relationship, there can a certain degree of frustration. Sometimes, and I am sure that you can relate to this, people offer to help, and for this you might be grateful, but the help is not always what you'd actually hoped for.

      As for the locals, it's important to realize that what was shown on the NGC series can only be a window into Carson and Ken's role in our search. There was much more that went on both before, after, and outside of the show's participation and the production of the show simplified much of that activity into voice-over that I had little to no control over.

      I suspect that you already read this: http://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/articles/explorer-roman-dial-talks-about-the-two-year-search-for-his-missing-son-w210134


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  7. Roman,
    I am so sorry for your loss but admire your determination and honesty. In spite of tragedy, you all know how to really live, doing so much more than masses in one lifetime. I am glad you have closure and wish you good fortune in the years to come. Todd Dean

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  8. Mr. Dial,

    I am so sorry for your, your wife's, and your daughter's loss. You all obviously loved Cody Roman deeply and there's no doubt that your unconditional love was something he felt as a constant presence throughout his tragically short life. I think that fathers and sons who spend time together in the wilderness share an especially strong bond, and I cannot begin to imagine the sorrow you must feel. Your story will make me appreciate all the more the time I'm so blessed to spend backpacking, skiing, or paddling with my own son. I expect I'll think of both Cody Roman and you on our next such trip, whether that's in WV or the Brooks Range.

    With Sympathy,

    David Kogut
    Arlington, VA

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    1. Peggy and I agree completely David with the observation of time spent together in wilderness forges a strong bond.

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  9. So sorry for your loss Roman, so sorry for your wife and daughter. I still believe it was foul play. Was an autopsy ever done? What do you think was Pata's reason for saying he was with your son?

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  10. The television show will leave you with the impression of foul play. But if you had been to the site, seen the discovery photos, and the physical evidence (which Carson did not, for instance), then the foul play scenario would be very challenging to accept.

    If you see the TV show, then it's much easier to be convinced that it was foul play. The TV show was written around that, and I, too, believed it until confronted with the physical evidence at the site which I visited with the OIJ.

    There was no autopsy. However the dental records match and there was no signs of trauma to the skull.

    Originally, two years ago, before Carson or anyone involved with the show ever knew about the case, Pata Lora sometimes aid he'd been with our son, and sometimes did not.

    I think he, an outcast in his own community, reveled in the attention and in addition has a difficult time separating out truth from imagination. My experience with him is that he is a very unreliable witness.

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    1. So sorry for your loss. I know that area intimately and have camped there myself. It still seems to me like foul play can't be ruled out. I'm curious as to who found your son's remains and why were only some found.

      I hope you find peace with your son's passing. You seem like a wonderful father.

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    2. Marcinha, After two years in the heat and humidity and the shallow stream bed, all that remains are essentially bleached, clean bones. They are disarticulated and so the water's current and perhaps animals have dispersed them.

      Foul play is very hard for us to see, now, despite being convinced at one time that it had been a murder. There is essentially no physical evidence of foul play and substantial evidence of a lethal treefall event. I base that on the condition of the camp stove and the equipment that was outside and/or unattached to the backpack versus the what was inside the pack.

      And thank you for the complement. I tried to be a good father.

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  11. I've been following the series and I think I may be able to shed some light on Jose's behaviour. His facial structure and his behaviour could be associated with having FASD. He is also an addict which means his brain structure is designed to confabulate and he is very easily led. The two investigators almost bullied him into playing along. They manipulated him into thinking he was doing a good thing. Putting this low functioning individual into a small room with a chair and a very intimidating series of questions is going to lead to him saying what they want to hear. This is typical of someone with FASD. His inconsistent version of events is also typical. It is very difficult to decipher what is true and what isn't with people who have this inherent brain damage. It's not a person trying to be deceptive. When pressured, he will respond with an answer even if it's not the truth. It's really frustrating but it's not deliberate. I am so sorry for your loss and it looks like your instincts were bang on from the beginning. I've learned a number of huge important things from this series. Thank you for that. I hope the investigators get the message too. What they did was criminal.

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  12. Sorry about cody..I work at a rehab and feel I can add some info..the jose/parrot foot guy to me is a text book serious drug addict.His behavior was typical of hardcore addict they can never tell the same story twice,often change their stories add and change deatils.I would bet he was using each time he was questioned..I don't understand how your investigator did not pick up on it..he seemed head strong and had tunnel vision..It also seems the gold miner sons also were using..its that look I know so well in their eyes..Sever addicts often act like this they cant remember or understand why their saying..they lie without even know they are lying...to an experience drug addict person the signs are easy to see..hope this helps

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  13. Hello Mr. Roman
    I am a young Costa Rican programmer 22 years old.

    As a Good Costa Rican I love my country, Costa Rica is a country full of humble, good and lovely people, but there are many bad people to, like any other country in the world.

    I feel bad that this tragedy happened in my country, I feel ashamed of the people who tried to take advantage of you.

    Costa Rica is no longer the same as before, not all Costa Ricans are bad. For me this is a reminder, for keep helping people when it need it a reminder of being the "Tico" that the world want to see.

    My respect and admiration for you and your family.
    God bless you.

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  14. I don't understand why would Pata De Lora make those stories about him being with cody.

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  15. Hola Señor Roman, no tengo mucho que decir, empece como otro televidente más y acabé releyendo y releyendo el caso, resolviendo un rompecabezas en mi cabeza.

    Eso la verdad no tiene importancia, solo quiero darle mi animo para seguir adelante en la vida.
    Saludos cordiales.

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  16. Is it possible Pata De Lora confused your son with someone else he took into the jungle? I am very interested in studying Criminology. This story is both heartbreaking and fascinating. I am glad your son's final moments were not as horrific as first suggested. I believe this Jose character was involved in murdering someone. At first, when he mentioned the amount of money paid to him, 700$, I believed the amount, but I believed he took it. I felt he was involved in your son's murder, but it didn't turn out to be a murder of Cody, but I believe this story is partly true, it's just about a entirely different person, or Pata should move to Hollywood. Mona

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  17. I have watched the "show" about your son's tragedy and I'm sorry for your lost. I'm glad you were able to find out what actually happened to your son. Many missing cases never get solved so I know that finding him took a lot of weight from your shoulders.

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