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Death on the Serpent River: How the Lost Girls of Panama Disappeared

The mysterious deaths of two young tourists in Panama puzzled examiners and shocked nations on both sides of the Atlantic; now secretly leaked documents could reveal what happened.
 
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This is the first in a three-part investigation into what may have been a savage crime or a tragic accident. In addition to a trove of documents and photographs revealing hitherto unexamined aspects of the case, The Daily Beast has consulted several top sleuths in fields as varied as wilderness survival and photographic analysis, with the expert opinion as well of forensic anthropologist and best-selling author Kathy Reichs.

 

BOQUETE, Panama — Welcome to the jungle: specifically, the cloud forests of the Talamanca highlands.

 

It’s a rainy Saturday in early June, at the height of the wet season here in northern Panama, and we are—quite literally—on the trail of a deadly international mystery.

 

This mud-slick, root-choked footpath is called the Pianista, or Piano Player, because it climbs—in a series of ladder-like steps reminiscent of a keyboard—up from the tourist town of Boquete to the Continental Divide, at about 6,660 feet.

 

Bright-tailed quetzals flit through dwarf species of cedar, oak, and wild avocado along the trail. At this elevation the trees are stunted and wind-warped, their twisted limbs draped with moss and epiphytes.

 

The raining is falling in surprisingly cold gusts by the time our small party reaches the Mirador, the overlook at the top of the Divide, about three hours after leaving the trailhead. On a clear day you can see all the way to Boquete. Today, however, the only thing visible from here is the white sea of mist atop the canopy below.

 

But the Pianista is known for more than just its pretty birds and haunting vistas.

 

Back in April 2014, two Dutch tourists—Kris Kremers, 21, and Lisanne Froon, 22—disappeared after setting out on this same three-mile stretch of trail.

 

(DJ--Rest of this installment here at The Daily Beast.  Typical of many American articles about Panama, it gets the oceans, directions and geographical orientation incorrect, Sloppy, but incidental.

Next Saturday—The Search)

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I'm not sure how much to care about geographic names, especially when the primary audience is not local. I see flights to Nuevo York on the departure monitor at Tocumen.  

On the other hand, nobody at all refers to Rio Culebra as "Serpent River".  The headline at The Beast was clearly crafted to make Americans click on the link. 

I don't know that this series will shed any new light on what most of us have previously learned from the tragedy and the investigation.  We shall see.

I'm sure it got the writer a trip to Boquete on her expense account.  Nice job if you can get it.

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Uncle Doug, the author appears to be a man named Jeremy Kryt.

My take is that "culebra" would have no meaning for most readers of The Daily Beast. Its translation into English, on the other hand, adds an exotic dimension not offered by most translated words.

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On 7/24/2016 at 7:09 PM, Bonnie said:

Uncle Doug, the author appears to be a man named Jeremy Kryt.

My take is that "culebra" would have no meaning for most readers of The Daily Beast. Its translation into English, on the other hand, adds an exotic dimension not offered by most translated words.

Yep, I misread the intro and assumed Kathy Reichs was on assignment for The Beast.  Good catch!

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  • 3 years later...

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