DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — A man and woman missing for two weeks likely died after a car accident in the Dominican Republic, authorities said. Although their bodies were found within days of the wreck, family and friends are only now learning what happened to them.
The National Police believe the car Orlando Moore and Portia Ravenelle were in plunged into the ocean in the early hours of March 27, not long after the pair left for the airport to catch a flight home to New York.
A body fitting the description of Moore was found at sea in an advanced stage of decomposition, police said. A woman later identified as Ravenelle was found on the airport road on the day of the wreck but died in an ICU eight days later, they said, without explaining how or why she might have ended up on the road.
“She had to die by herself,” family friend Francesca Figueroa told CNN. “When one of us could have been there holding her hand.”
Friends with Moore for about 25 years, Figueroa said she thinks of him as family. Both Moore and Ravenelle, friends who worked together, spent the night before their trip to the Dominican Republic at Figueroa’s having dinner and watching a movie.
“Two silly individuals, two happy-go-lucky people, always trying to help people, that’s who they are,” Figueroa said.
They were due back in New York on March 27 at 5:45 a.m., Figueroa said. When they didn’t return, Figueroa said her family started looking for them.
Figueroa said she spoke to a US Embassy representative on March 31 who told her “no bodies were found, there were no dead bodies reported, no accidents, no one was in jail.”
She said she was relieved. Perhaps they were just lost.
But on Tuesday, she learned that her friends likely were in a car accident on the way to the airport to go back home.
“I am saddened it took this many days to find out,” Figueroa said.
She was in intensive care for eight days
National Police Col. Frank Félix Durán Mejia said Tuesday that an unconscious woman was found on the road to the international airport in Santo Domingo on March 27 and taken to a hospital.
Fingerprints were used to identified the woman as Ravenelle, Durán Mejia said.
Hospital spokesman Dario Mañon said she arrived with severe trauma and contusions to the head. It was about 12 hours after the pair’s missed flight had left for New York.
He said Ravenelle died on April 4, before she was in a condition in which hospital officials could take her photo and share it with the media.
Authorities asked Tuesday for a photo taken while she was in intensive care, he said.
Mañon told CNN that no one from her family or friends had called the hospital looking for her.
Authorities are working to confirm an identity
Airport surveillance cameras show that the two never made it inside the airport building on the morning of their flight.
Authorities said there was no evidence of foul play.
Fishermen reported seeing a vehicle at the bottom of the sea, but because of rough conditions, divers have not been able to identify the vehicle, Durán Mejia told CNN affiliate Telesistema.
On March 31, the body of a man fitting the description of Moore was found at sea near Sans Souci, Durán Mejia said.
The body had a tattoo that read “Milano” on its right arm, police said.
Figueroa confirmed to the police on Tuesday that Moore has a tattoo with his daughter’s name, “Milan,” on his arm.
Autopsies of both bodies are underway, with results expected next week, Durán Mejia said.
“Everybody is devastated. Everybody is devastated,” Figueroa said. “His daughter is devastated, everybody is devastated, as I am, as my husband, as the mayor, as everybody in this town is because he’s well known in this town. You go on the corner, and everybody knows Orlando.”
They planned to drive at night for early morning flight
Cheryl Freeman and her boyfriend said that they spent time with Moore and Ravenelle while on vacation in the resort town of Samana. Freeman said Moore and Ravenelle had a 2 a.m. flight and were driving a rental car to the airport.
Ravenelle expressed anxiety about driving at night and said the rental company warned them to not stop and open their windows for anyone because the locals know which cars are rentals and try to mug tourists, Freeman said.
Ravenelle repeatedly asked Moore if he was sure they had enough gas to make it to the airport. She kept checking to make sure their phones were charged enough to use the GPS, Freeman said.
After the pair left, Freeman’s boyfriend sent Moore an email wishing them a safe flight.
He never heard back from him.
Freeman said she did not realize the two had gone missing until she returned home to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on March 31 and discovered several emails from Ravenelle’s family.
Traffic police investigators are conducting a review of the area of the supposed wreck site, Durán Mejia said. No police report was filed with respect to the location and there is no indication the pair’s vehicle hit another vehicle there, he said.
There is no word yet on the transportation of the pair’s remains to the United States, Durán Mejia said, noting paperwork must be completed.