Latin America & Caribbean

Costa Rica boat accident kills three elderly tourists

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Media captionTourist Casandra Pershen: "A big wave came and the boat started tipping over"

Three elderly tourists were killed in Costa Rica when a boat carrying more than 100 people capsized in rough seas.

The victims are a British man and a Canadian and an American woman, said the Costa Rican authorities

The catamaran was taking tourists to the Tortuga Island, on the country's Pacific Coast, when it was hit by strong winds and powerful waves.

Survivors said they were given lifejackets shortly before the boat sank.

"We were floating in the ocean. Many people were crying, screaming, asking for help," an unidentified woman told local television.

The Pura Vida Princess was carrying 99 tourists and 10 crew when it sank some 15km (nine miles) offshore.

'Very fast, shocking'

The accident happened around 09:00 local time (15:00 GMT).

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Costa Rican government says the boat appeared to have enough lifeboats and life jackets
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ninety-nine tourists were on board the catamaran

"The captain started to turn the wheel to the left. There were pretty heavy seas and we started to take water on, apparently on the right side," said Todd Olson, a tourist from the American state of Kansas.

"Within a minute it was flipped. Very fast, shocking," he added.

Vice-President Ana Helena Chacon said 106 people had been rescued. She praised the work of the lifeguards, security ministry and the Red Cross.

Earlier reports said two tourists were missing, but Ms Chacon said all the passengers and crew, with the exception of the three casualties, had been accounted for.

"It's a sad day for our country, that receives so many tourists," she said.

The British Foreign Office said it a statement: "We are aware of an incident on a boat off the coast of Costa Rica involving British nationals. We are in close contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance."

The Central American nation is considered one of the safest and most popular tourist destinations in Latin America.

Some 2.4 million foreign tourists - most of them from the US - visited the country in 2013, according to Costa Rica's Tourism Board.

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