Monday, August 11, 2008

Alaska tourist hacked to death in Guatemala

Daily News staff and wire reports

Robbers armed with machetes hacked an Alaska tourist to death and seriously wounded his wife in an attack aboard the couple's sailboat in northeastern Guatemala, the woman told The Associated Press on Sunday.

In a telephone interview from her hospital bed, Nancy Dryden, 67, said her husband, Daniel Perry Dryden, 66, was killed by four men who boarded their boat late Saturday while it was anchored in Lake Izabal.

The couple, who are retired, live in the Sutton area of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

"They poked us and stabbed us with the machetes, and they were asking for money, specifically dollars," said Dryden, who was listed in stable condition at a hospital in the lakeside town of Morales.

The thieves were apparently unhappy with the take. "We had a few quetzales (Guatemala's currency), but we had no dollars with us on the boat," Dryden recounted.

The Drydens had bought the boat in February. They were equipping the vessel in preparation for a voyage into the Caribbean and eventually to the eastern coast of the United States.

Dryden said the four assailants may have reached the boat by swimming from shore and brandished long machetes that "seemed liked curved swords."

After assaulting the couple, the men demanded she hand over the keys to the vessel, which has an auxiliary motor. When she didn't - she was unable to tell whether they wanted the keys to the boat, or a small dinghy the couple used to get to shore - the men left, also apparently by swimming.

Dryden struggled over to the boat's radio and sent out a distress call. "I said we need help ... I said my husband was not moving," Dryden recalled.

She said she expects her children to arrive in Guatemala today and plans to be transferred to the United States for medical care.

In Alaska, family friend Dee Woods said the Drydens were experienced sailors. They owned a boat in the 1960s and '70s and sailed to England and in the Pacific Ocean.

"They were real trusting and loving and outright, but they were aware that stuff happens. This is just a freak thing," Woods said. The couple's two grown children, a son and a daughter, live in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Woods said the daughter had called Sunday morning with the news and asked that friends be notified.

Woods said the couple had planned to build a home in Mexico but while visiting friends in Guatemala, they found the sailboat for sale and bought it.

Woods said recent emails between he and his wife, Mat-Su Borough Assemblywoman Lynne Woods, and Nancy Dryden indicate the couple was waiting out bad weather before embarking on their journey.

"Nancy and Dan were really having a good time," Woods said. "They were really getting into the arts and crafts of Guatemala.

Woods said the Drydens moved to Sutton in the late 1970s, where both couples were members of a small community of friends who spent holidays and birthdays together. Dan drove truck during the pipeline days and went on to work as a private contractor around the area. Recently, he did dirt work on a salmon habitat restoration program on Moose Creek near Sutton.

Nancy recently retired from the state where she worked as a physical therapist.

In Guatemala City, Assistant Police Commissioner Luis Say said the attack is being investigated.

Located near Guatemala's Caribbean coast, Lake Izabal is popular among tourists for its jungle scenery and wildlife.

In March, protesting farmers briefly kidnapped four Belgian tourists at Lake Izabal to press for the release of a jailed activist. They were released unharmed.

This story was reported by the Associated Press from Guatemala City and the Daily News' Rindi White in Palmer.

After traveling to Guatemala and visiting this lake and Rio Dulce just a couple years ago... this story is a bit startling. But certainly from our experience there, it is nothing unbelievable. Everything we experienced and saw indicated that Guatemala was more or less a lawless country. There has been some calming down since the civil wars and rebel fighting, but it still remains highly corrupt and employs an inadequate police force. Highway robberies and murders are still fairly common.

Some other stories from Guatemala are equally startling. One described prisons which were run by the prisoners and the guards just made sure that no one got into the prison. It was used for drug growing, production, drug shipments, blackmail, etc. The guards took payoffs from the prisoners. This wasn't closed down until 2007.

Another story listed the sad figures for solved cases of murders. Numerous articles and stories list the following: "Murder rates in Guatemala are among the world's highest." "There are over 5000 murders in Guatemala per year. Only about 2% of them result in an arrest."

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