The groom who lost his brother and three pals while whitewater rafting during his bachelor party in Costa Rica recalled how “everything turned upside down” just moments after getting into the water.
Luis Beltran choked up as he recalled the tragic accident on Oct. 20, the last day of his celebratory trip with 13 friends.
“It was supposed to be just an amazing time,” he told ABC News on Monday. “It was literally two, three days of nothing but memories and within five minutes, literally everything turned upside down.”
The group from Miami decided to cap the vacation with the rafting tour on the Naranjo River, which was swollen from days of heavy rain.
But they were never warned that the river was raging, even though flood warnings had been issued.
Within five minutes after heading into the rapids, all three of their inflatable rafts capsized, sending the men tumbling through the gushing current.
“I thought I was having a heart attack. I was lifeless, I couldn’t move my head, I couldn’t move my arms, I couldn’t move my legs,” Sean Estevez recalled. “I was beat up, my knees were banged up.”
Most of the pals were able to cling to jagged rocks, but four of them — Beltran’s brother Sergio Lorenzo, Ernesto Sierra, Jorge Caso and Andres “Andy” Denis — were swept downstream.
“Each and every one of us was in survivor mode,” one of the men who survived said. “I was just trying to grab a rock or anything that was near us.”
The group’s Costa Rican guide, Kevin Thompson Reid, was also killed.
“I did lose a brother but … I lost four brothers,” said an emotional Beltran.
Estevez said he was tasked with breaking the devastating news of Denis’ death to his fiancée.
“Andy was next to me and I helped him on the raft when I was in the water. The raft flipped again. I never saw him again,” said Estevez. “I told her he was with me and I didn’t see him again — Chloe, I don’t have the facts, I don’t know.”
Survivors and their families put out a statement depicting the heart-stopping moments.
“Everyone struggled to get back on the rafts, with some efforts being successful, but ultimately the rafts continued to capsize due to the immense current. Within minutes, all of us were careening down the river with life jackets and helmets just trying to stabilize and find something to hold on to,” the statement said.
“Throughout the dangerous ride down the river, all of us struggled to stay above water, swallowing lots of it on the way down as our bodies ricocheted against the rocks in the water while struggling to survive. Most of us were ultimately able to grab hold of rocks or barriers in or around the water and await the rescue teams to get to us. Unfortunately, not all of us were so lucky. Four of our dear friends drowned in those waters,” the statement said.
Authorities searched for hours to recover all five of the bodies. Now the families are trying to raise funds to cover funeral costs. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $78,000.
“When you go on vacation, subconsciously you kind of put your guard down just because you’re going to have a good time,” said Beltran. “You never think of anything like this happening — and neither did we.”
The rafting company, Quepoa Expeditions, is under investigation, an official at the Costa Rican Tourism Institute told ABC.
Another official said a yellow advisory had been issued for the river that day because of flooding — and that no other rafting companies were out on the water because of the dangerous conditions.
By Lia Eustachewich, From NY Post