On November 21 two Australian surfers missed a rendezvous in Mexico and were reported missing. Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman had driven a van from Edmonton, Canada, following the coast south to where they were meeting Coleman's girlfriend in the city of Guadalajara. Travelers miss deadlines all the time, but in central Mexico tardiness can be worrying. Coleman's girlfriend, a Mexican woman named Andrea Gomez, contacted the police.
That same day one of the country's crime tabloids ran a story about a burned-out van found in a field. Investigators discovered two charred bodies inside, along with numerous cans of tinned food. The report was tiny and there was no mention of foreign travelers. Whether the remains are those of Dean and Adam is still unknown, as is what might have happened. But here's what we do know.
Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman were friends from the Perth suburb of Golden Bay. They'd traveled and surfed together and apart for around 15 years, until they wound up working in Edmonton, which sits on the bottom west-hand-corner of Canada. That's where they bought a Chevy G20 to take surfing down the Californian coast into Mexico. They took a popular route for surfers: south through Baja California, exiting the peninsula on a ferry from La Paz. This was the last time their families heard from them.
They were seen disembarking the ferry in the Mexican city of Los Mochis, which is a 10-hour drive from their destination in Guadalajara. This route hugs the west coast where the Pacific rolls over some of the best breaks in the world. Not only is it dependable but it's uncrowded—mostly because it's cartel homeland.
Since the 90s the state of Sinaloa has been ostensibly run by what is considered the "most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world." The state's namesake, Sinaloa Cartel, slaughter thousands every year while running cocaine, heroin, and marijuana into the States and Europe. The cartel also made international headlines in July when its boss 'Chapo' Guzman tunneled out of his Mexican prison cell—his third tunnel escape in 15 years.
Most locals avoid remote parts of Sinaloa. It's considered too dangerous, which is why internet commentators have focused blame on the surfers. Lucas's sister Michelle retaliated over Facebook:
"They spoke Spanish, among other languages, and have done things that many people in their lifetime don't get to do or are too scared to do. They are NOT naive, they are NOT tourists, they are travellers. This is an absolute tragedy and I see lots of people either blaming the boys or blaming the country. Let's concentrate on the fact that two people are missing and they mean everything to a lot of people."
The van reported in the Mexican crime paper, Viva La Noticia, was found 125 miles south from where the men were last seen. According to Fairfax they were noticed at an all-night convenience store late on November 20 before they drove on, possibly meeting foul play in the farmland between El Tigre and San Blas.
Looking at Facebook posts from the families, it took a few days for the burned van story to be connected with the missing surfers. Six days after Viva La Noticia published their report, Coleman's girlfriend posted a public appeal to find the men. "I'm appealing for some information about Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman." She wrote in Spanish. "They had solid plans and reservations to be in Guadalajara for Saturday, November 21, but never arrived."
It's unsure how the story in the Mexican press was first connected with the disappearance of Lucas and Coleman. In any case somebody used the comments section on Viva La Noticia to link Coleman's girlfriend to the article via Facebook. If this was the point of discovery, it would be gut-wrenching.
As it stands everyone is waiting for the bodies in the van to be identified via DNA testing. It's possible it isn't them but it everyone seems prepared for the worst. A friend of the Coleman family has set up a crowd sourcing account to send both families to Mexico and potentially return the remains.
The comments section in GoFundMe has filled with tributes from surfers who apparently met Lucas and Coleman along their travels. "I remember looking in my rear view mirror being jealous of two friends sharing the experience of a lifetime," wrote a guy named Nick. "Respect and love, my friends. Enjoy the eternal greenroom barrel in the sky above."
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