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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Search for alleged drowning victim found in hiding likely cost over $1.2 million

Nino Correa Filomeno, commissioner of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration

By John McPhaul

Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD by its Spanish initials) Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno, along with personnel from the Coast Guard, the Arecibo Municipal Emergency Management Office and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau’s Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA by its Spanish acronym), said late last week that after a search and rescue operation was activated for 23-year-old Harold Carrión Butter in the Poza del Obispo area of Arecibo, the man was found in hiding.

“Amid everything, we thank the heavenly father that there was no loss of life,” Correa Filomeno said at a press conference. “It frustrates us a little, but we complied with the mother’s request.”

Correa Filomeno could not state how much the search for the young man who was believed to have drowned cost the island government. However, among the resources that were used for the rescue were an airplane, three helicopters and several boats, which came to an estimated $1.2 million in resources for the search, in addition to divers.

“It was just over a million dollars,” said the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue coordinator, Alberto Martínez.

Acting on a tip provided by a confidential source, the authorities found Carrión Butter hiding in an abandoned structure in a public park in the García de Arecibo urbanization.

Starting last Tuesday, a search for the man was activated after he was supposedly dragged offshore by the sea currents at Poza del Obispo in the Islote neighborhood.

He was arrested by the police along with his mother, Justinita Butter Torres -- who reported his alleged disappearance -- and he had to go to court for an alleged case of domestic violence. The individual also was facing another case related to controlled substances.

Meanwhile, the NMEAD commissioner supported the approval of legislation to criminally punish whoever causes search and rescue agencies to be activated in false cases.

“It is outrageous that one sees why what we have seen at this time happens because I do not know how it was planned,” Correa Filomeno said. “You put staff in danger and we don’t rest until the mission is accomplished. The number of people that you have in the water and in the air, you don’t know what could happen; the sea conditions are terrible, we are putting together what could be a work plan for the next day, all of that is outrageous when there are people who dare to do a thing like this and it saddens me. A person who takes [a false alarm] to the pertinent government agencies to respond must bear the full weight of the law. They have no idea of the people who expose themselves. We have had events that have happened to us and we ask, and we are proposing to the Legislature, that the full weight of the law be applied to anyone who exposes personnel [to unnecessary risk].”

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