PHUKET – Intensive searches in the waters off the coast of Phuket, Thailand have not found any evidence into the disappearance of retired Connecticut National Guardsman and avid diver Joshua Devine.
Devine’s mother Marie Major and sister Jennifer Bakowski left their Enfield homes on Thursday and arrived in Thailand and are now getting more information about Devine’s disappearance. Two of his friends who live in Kuwait have also joined them, said Alison Podworski, owner of Alison May Public Relations and spokeswoman for the family.
Devine, who had served in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan with the active-duty military and later the National Guard, currently lives in Kuwait and works on information technology for a military contractor. He was also an experienced diver and instructor.
Devine and his wife Thadsana left last Saturday for a five-day diving trip in Thailand. At about 4 a.m. Saturday, about four hours after they boarded the boat, Devine disappeared.
His wife told family members Devine had been drinking and was upset. Two acquaintances who had been on other diving trips with him before, took him to a storage room to calm him down. At his request, they left for about 10 minutes and when they returned Devine had disappeared.
Despite initial concerns about the fact the initial search had been delayed and a second search was aborted because of weather, efforts now have intensified, Podworski said.
Bakowski, Major and Thadsana Devine are working with officials from the U.S. Embassy. They have also used some of about $1,200 raised in a GoFundMe account to hire a private detective and an attorney to help them in Thailand, she said.
“The U.S. Embassy told (Major) it’s been the largest search ever conducted in Thai waters,” Podworski said.
The search has been done with a combination of boats and helicopters. It will continue this week, but the focus will change, she said.
Adding to the difficulty of the search is it covers a large area and the water is very deep so visibility is limited, she said.
The Navy will now be searching many of the small islands, hoping he may have been able to swim ashore. They are also checking hospitals with the idea that Devine could have been picked up by a passing boat and brought to a medical facility for treatment, Podworski said.
The dive company Mermaids Dive Center 5Star PADI also responded to complaints about its lack of a search when Devine was initially reported missing and the fact it continued with the dive trip.
“Upon learning that the passenger was missing, members of the dive trip immediately searched the vessel, and failing to locate the missing passenger, the vessel backtracked to the area the missing passenger was last seen. The dive boat then conducted an ocean search for the missing passenger in a logical, planned manner using large spotlights while many members of the dive trip assisted with torches,” company officials posted on Facebook.
Efforts to contact the Royal Thai Navy and other vessels in the area was also initiated. The boat was not within cellular coverage so there was a delay, but radio contact was made by 6:30 a.m. and rescue services arrived at about 10 a.m., officials said.