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Published: Thursday, 5/5/2011

Columbus teens on mission trip swept out to sea

1 confirmed drown, 2 missing off Costa Rica

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS — An Ohio teenager on a school mission trip to Costa Rica died in the Pacific Ocean when she was pulled along by an undertow current, and two other students swept out with her have not been found, officials said Thursday.

The three were spending an afternoon at the beach when Wednesday's accident occurred, according to a statement from Patriot Preparatory Academy in Columbus. They were among eight members of the junior and senior classes who were on a missionary service trip in the central American country and were to return home Thursday, the school said.

James Shoaf, the father of one of the two missing boys, said he realizes that as the hours pass, there's little hope his son is still alive.

Shoaf said the school principal called him and said "it's bad, real bad." Shoaf and his wife, Sandy, went to a church with others Wednesday night to pray for the teens.

"I'm standing in a church and there's Scripture to explain what happened," Shoaf told The Columbus Dispatch. "That kid lived and slept the word of Christ."

The three teens were swept out by a rip current in the Pacific near the town of Parrita, the Costa Rican Red Cross told The Tico Times newspaper. They were doing missionary work at an orphanage and a drug rehabilitation center, among other places, according to a blog the group is keeping on the trip.

A visit to the orphanage "was one of the most touching things I had ever seen," one of the students blogged.

The academy said it had grief counselors at the school for students on Thursday.

"Our hearts go out to all of our Patriot family that has been affected by this tragedy. We are a family and when one hurts we all hurt," the statement said.

It did not identify the girl who died or the two missing students. Academy executive director David McIlrath did not immediately return a message seeking further comment. A message also was left with the trip organizer, Ohio-based Impulse International Mission Trips.

Two other students in the group also were swept away but were rescued by lifeguards, The Tico Times reported.

In 2006, three Kansas students and their teacher drowned in Costa Rica while on a Spanish language immersion trip. A group of students were swimming and some were swept away by strong currents. At least two were rescued, but the teacher and one of the students died trying to save the others.



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