Costa Rica News – Brandon Rowlands, 33, a free spirit who traversed the globe in search of surfing, cliff diving and extreme adventures, died in Costa Rica on Oct. 25 after months of psychiatric turmoil following his release from prison on drug-related charges in the Central American country.
His parents, who live in Albany, flew home with their son’s cremated remains on Oct. 29 as they continued to raise questions about the circumstances surrounding his death and pursued answers from Costa Rican and U.S. Embassy officials.
“There are a number of outstanding questions and my family has an ongoing dialogue with U.S. Embassy officials,” said his sister, Brianna Rowlands-Brennan, of Delmar.
No cause of death was determined and results from an autopsy are pending, his sister said. U.S. Embassy officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Rowlands served two years of a five-year drug conviction in Costa Rica. After his conditional release from prison a year ago, he struggled as an American expatriate on parole to find housing, work and mental health services. He was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and completed treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.
n prison, he kept clean and sober, volunteered to teach English to inmates and guards and tended a garden at the penitentiary, his sister said.
His mental health problems intensified after his release and he wound up in a psychiatric hospital on Oct. 7. After his discharge on Oct. 18, he suffered side effects from medication he was given there, according to his sister.
His father’s trip to Costa Rica around that time did not resolve his psychiatric or legal issues. Rowlands, who kept in frequent contact with his family, fell ill on Oct. 21 and checked into a hotel room, where staff members found him unresponsive on Oct. 22. Police arrived and he was rushed to a medical clinic on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste province. He was pronounced dead on Oct. 25.
“Our family regrets our decision to leave Brandon in that broken system and not bring him back to the U.S.,” his sister said.
Rowlands grew up in the Catskills town of Delhi, Delaware County, attended SUNY Delhi, and worked as a carpenter in Albany, including renovations of Bombers Burrito Bar, Noche nightclub and others.
He tested with an extremely high IQ and spent the past decade chasing adrenaline-pumping experiences: snowboarding in Colorado, surfing in San Diego, skateboarding in New York City, cliff jumping in Guam and living the surfer lifestyle in Costa Rica. He hoped to become a surf instructor.
His brother, Kellin Rowlands, of Glenmont, started an account on the GoFundMe crowdfunding website that has raised more than $2,600 from three dozen donors for “Brandon’s House,” a program to support foreign offenders in rehabilitation after their prison release in Costa Rica.
Rowlands, who was known as Branney or Bran, loved pizza, bacon and Brussels sprouts, which were planned to be served at a memorial service on Nov. 5 in Delaware County.
He is survived by his parents, Phil and Sylvia Rowlands, of Albany; his sister, Brianna Rowlands-Brennan and brother-in-law Thomas Brennan, of Delmar; his brother, Kellin Rowlands, and sister-in-law Amanda Rowlands, of Glenmont; and three nephews and a niece.
The family quoted Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
By Paul Grondahl, Times Union