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Caribbean police search for US citizens on yacht hijacked by prisoners

Police in Grenada say they fear the couple may have been killed when three escaped prisoners seized the vessel.
Caribbean police search for US citizens on yacht hijacked by prisoners
Posted at 7:24 PM, Feb 25, 2024

A Treasure Coast woman is keeping hope alive after she said her brother and sister-in-law vanished while living on their yacht in Grenada, in the Caribbean.

Police said three escaped inmates may be connected to their disappearance.

Suellen Desmarais of Fort Pierce said the missing couple is her brother Ralph Hendry and his wife, Kathy Brandel. The couple, who are in their 60s, lived on their catamaran yacht named "Simplicity."

They would spend every winter on their boat in Fort Pierce, visiting with family and friends. But they skipped the trip this year for the trip of a lifetime to Grenada.

"This was their whole life; they didn't own another home; they didn't own cars; they owned Simplicity," Desmarais said. "And when you were invited onto Simplicity, you were made to feel as magical as they were and as magical as that boat was."

Riding waves of emotion, she's trying to figure out what happened to the couple during this one-in-a-lifetime trip that was in the works for 12 years. They left for the island with a boating group from Virginia back in November.

"What happened in Grenada was a perfect storm. It was a perfect tragedy of a perfect storm, of a perfect love story," Desmarais said. "They went into town to have a little bite and to walk back (on Sunday)," she said. "Somehow Ralph crossed paths in this teeny tiny town with these three men; what happened after that, we're not sure."

She believes her brother and his wife could still be alive. Friends and family have been networking with the boating community, trying to find the pieces to this puzzle. She's thankful for all of their help and support, as official information has been hard to come by.

"This tragedy that happened—it's not just losing Ralph and Kathy; it's losing a way of life. It is losing our center. They were our whole center," Desmarais said. "There's got to be a reason for this, so maybe being here we are saving someone else. What if Ralph's boat hadn't been there that day? What if he hadn't gone into town? Would it have been the next boat?"

She said the couple's sons and her son are traveling to the islands at the request of police there to try to identify some of the couple's belongings that were found.

"Ralph and Kathy are the kindest people in the entire world and I just can't understand how a tragedy like this could happen to people as kind and nice as them," Desmarais said. "It feels made up and I just can't comprehend why someone would do this? Why didn't someone just take the boat?"

Desmarais is not giving up hope that they get some answers.

Family and friends said they have contacted U.S. Rep. Brian Mast's office for help. Mast's office sent WPTV the following response:

"Our office has been in communication with the family and State Department. The State Department told our office that they are doing all they can to assist the family."

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association issued a statement Thursday on the case, saying that the "warm hearted and capable" couple were veteran cruisers who were long-time members of the organization.

This story was originally published by Stephanie Susskind at Scripps News West Palm Beach.

SEE MORE: US couple whose boat was hijacked in Grenada likely thrown overboard

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