Friends who sailed with missing Americans ‘pray for miracle’ after yacht hijacking: report

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Friends who recently sailed with a missing Virginia couple, whose boat was overrun by seafaring bandits in the Caribbean, are “praying for a miracle,” despite the gloomy outlook.

Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry are still missing after their yacht – named “Simplicity” – was found in tatters and abandoned over the weekend.

Three escaped prisoners – Ron Mitchell, a 30-year-old sailor; Trevon Robertson, a 19-year-old unemployed man, and Abita Stanislaus, a 20-year-old farmer – were arrested and charged with robbery, and the oldest suspect is being held on three counts of attempted rape, according to the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF). Investigators said the yacht was found ransacked.

“We would love to believe that they are still alive and out there and can be found and brought back to us safely,” one of the couple’s sons, Nick Buro, told Fox News. “It’s obvious from what evidence has been found of the boat that that is a concern that that may not happen, but we, of course, are holding hope that they are still alive and can be found.”

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A Rhode Island couple, who have been friends with Brandel and Hendry for years, told WTKR that they are, “Praying for a miracle.”

Pete and Tammy Sisson said they sailed with Brandel and Hendry during the first leg of the trip from Hampton, Virginia, to Antigua, but left after a few days in Antigua. 

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The Sissons expressed survivors’ guilt in their interview with the local news outlet. They said their destination was “gorgeous,” and they described the “beautiful lush green island with waterfalls, and a rainforest-type atmosphere.”

It created a sense of safety. The Sissons left a few days before Hendry and Brandel, but now Pete Sisson says he and his wife cannot help but wonder if the situation would have been different had he and his wife stayed with the couple. 

“I also thought perhaps if there were four people instead of two, maybe these perpetrators would have done something different,” he told WTKR.

The trip was part of a rally organized by the Salty Dawg Association, which released a statement from Bryan Hendry and Buro on behalf of their parents on Friday, which thanked and cautioned well-intended volunteers.  

“We want to reach out to the entire cruiser community to express our gratitude for everyone that worked to gather information from eyewitnesses and provide search and rescue support,” Bryan Hendry and Buro said. 

“It means so much to us that so many people cared for Ralph and Kathy as friends and fellow cruisers that they are willing to stop and help in whatever way possible.” 

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However, for the “safety of the cruising community, we are asking all cruisers, and anyone that is not affiliated with the officials with presiding jurisdiction, to stand down,” they said in the statement. 

“The only way we feel this situation could be worse would be if anyone was hurt or endangered trying to conduct searches.”

Authorities continued to search for the couple Monday, as conflicting reports about their presumed demise pop up on social media and news outlets, and authorities sort the details about what happened on the Caribbean seas

The RGPF said in a statement Friday that they were working on leads “that suggest” the two occupants of the yacht might have been killed, but they have not released anything official since. 

Fox News’ Christina Coleman spoke to Buro and Bryan Hendry, who said their parents were living their post-retirement dream on a boat. 

“They’ve been doing for 12 years,” Buro said. “And they sold all their possessions to live out their retirement years on this boat. It was their home. It was their livelihood. It was their possessions. It was everything that they had in the world, and it was taken from them.”

Bob Osborn, president of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, said, “This is a very upsetting event and details are still unconfirmed by the authorities, but this does appear to be a tragic event – our hopes and prayers are with Ralph and Kathy and the family who love them.

“I have spoken to the families and have offered our deepest condolences and our assistance in any way possible. In all my years of cruising the Caribbean, I have never heard of anything like this.”

Fox News Digital’s Michael Dorgan contributed to this story. 

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