Anupsurge of support has risen in the international surfing community as longtime friends and travel companions Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman are still labeled as missing persons in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico.
“We do have very grave concerns for their fate,” said Julie Bishop, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs in an interview on Dec. 1. “When it was revealed some days ago that they were missing, our consular authorities got in touch with the authorities in the United States and have been working around the clock to determine their whereabouts.”
The Australian surfers had planned to be in Guadalajara on Nov. 21 but when that day came and went the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade classified Dean and Adam as “missing.” Traveling in a blue-and-white striped Chevy van, the pair began their journey in Edmonton, Canada and were slowly cruising southbound, making stops to surf along the way.
It has been nearly two weeks since their disappearance and many family members and friends are beginning to dread the worst. Reports have flooded in stating a curious van registered to one of the men was found in the Navolato region of Sinaloa torched with human remains inside. DNA tests are currently being conducted to see if they match Dean or Adam.
The torched remains of the van and the bodies inside.
The gutted van was found on a dirt road known as “the 25” in Sinaloa.
Dean’s girlfriend, Josie Cox, is traveling to Mexico with Dean’s dental records and has been posting regular updates on social media.
According to one post, Josie knew Dean had plans to propose to her after their trip and in honor of him, Josie has pledged to get into the ocean and finish his surf trip for him.
On additional social media pages dedicated to Dean and Adam, close friends and strangers alike have come together to share hundreds of fond memories of the Aussie surfers.
On a Facebook community page for Adam Coleman, one supporter wrote: “The weight of dread has been heavy on my heart and grows now heavier as Adam’s and Dean’s parents must endure their journey to bring you both home. You guys had the courage to live, really live, and if there is one common theme about you guys it is love and joy from everyone you crossed paths with.”
Mexico is a top destination for Australian travelers in the Latin America region, with approximately 71,500 Australians visiting Mexico in 2014, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs states all travelers should defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the city of Mazatlan, where it is advised that all travelers still exercise caution, particularly at night or in the early morning.
“One of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations is based in the state of Sinaloa, and violent crime rates remain high in many parts of the state. Travel off the toll roads in remote areas of Sinaloa is especially dangerous and should be avoided,” the U.S. government warning states.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated their Smart Traveler site to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico, merely 27 days before Dean and Adam went missing.
“Incidences of kidnapping are common and there have been allegations of complicity by police officers,” the update states.
Dave Becker is a co-owner of Sinaloa Surf Adventures, which operates a surf camp in the area April through October. The camp has been open for 15 years and Dave said they have never had one single issue with safety or security.
“We are located in a small fishing village of 300 people completely off the grid. We have no outside influence of anything and we have a 100% safety guarantee,” said Dave.
Dave said that the area where the van was found was probably not the safest and that despite the majority of Sinaloa being peaceful there are spots that are not “gringo friendly.”
“It is tragic, but I have no idea why anybody in their right mind would be near Novalato or Culiacan,” said Dave. “When something happens to our surf community we huddle together. But the reality is there are very touristy areas in the state of Sinaloa like Mazatlan where cruise ships go.”
Sinaloa Surf Adventures has considered changing their name to avoid negative stigmas associated with the drug cartels of Sinaloa but Dave admitted they could never go through with the change.
The surf camp has an average of 480 surfers visit each year and a few travelers have returned time and again. One surfer has even been to the camp 9 years in a row.
“We get about 40 international surfers every year and around 60 female surfers. Everyone has a great time and comes home with many stories,” said Dave. “We don’t need to change our name because our camps and product are great.”
Kaye Maytum, a friend of Dean and Adam’s families, started a GoFundMe site that has raised nearly $60,000 to send family members to Mexico to aid in the investigation and for funeral costs in case the worst is confirmed.