A Palm Beach, Florida man, who disappeared while on a surfing trip in the Dominican Republic, is still missing. A little over a month later, family and friends are still hoping for answers into his mysterious disappearance.
Fox News has reported that Darryl Fornatora, 46, a tennis instructor, treated himself to a seven-day surfing excursion in the Caribbean as a Christmas present. He took his friend Matt Rigby, also a surfing enthusiast, along with him and on January 25, they landed in Puerto Plata.
Fornatora checked into a villa at the coastal town of Cabaret, and sent text messages to friends and family that he’d arrived safely. The following day, after surfing for hours, he texted his mother and told her that he was out of the water, he loved her, and that he was tired. It was the last time she heard from him.
After scouring the coast and reefs for days, authorities ruled out drowning. Fornatora is an experienced surfer and expert swimmer who’s known to swim miles without getting tired. Fornatora’s sister, Christina Hendrex, went to the Caribbean earlier this month to help with the search. Her husband accompanied her, but after searching for days, they yielded no results.
“We literally scoured the whole north coast, stopping at every beach, stopping every surfer and handing out Darryl’s picture and information. Everybody is of the same mind — that it’s a weird case. Nobody really knows what happened to Darryl, and nobody has answers for us.”
Both Rigby and Fornatora were supposed to fly home together on January 31, but Rigby flew home alone on January 28. Rigby called Fornatora’s parents on January and told them he had no idea where his friend was and hadn’t talked to him. Hendrex found this troubling, wondering why Rigby didn’t call the police.
“He [Rigby] didn’t contact the embassy or police, which I don’t understand. He also took some of Darryl’s things back with him, like his surfboard and his computer.”
Hendrex also said Rigby continues to change his story about what happened while in the Dominican Republic, as well his reasons for leaving early.
“The original story was that he left early because there was no surf and Darryl wanted to stay, but then it unfolded into something different. The latest is that Darryl was acting paranoid and upset. Matt told him to ‘calm down’ and suggested they go into town. Then Matt said he turned his back and Darryl was just gone.”
The Fortanora family hasn’t heard from Rigby lately, and he’s refusing requests from the media. Yet, he isn’t the only person that said Fornatora was acting paranoid. Witnesses that saw Fornatora on January 27, also said that he was acting strange and “out of it.” However, Hendrex said that her brother has never had a mental illness and doesn’t use drugs.
“Witnesses said he was acting paranoid, scared and fearful for his safety. We don’t know if it was a situation where that was an induced state of paranoia or he had something genuinely to be fearful of.”
Leon Alter, a special officer for the Dominican Air Force foreign affairs division, is leading the investigation. The officer doesn’t think the surfer is dead, but did admit that he thought he would be found by now.
“We don’t believe he is deceased. We think he is missing and might have had some kind of mental break.”
Fornatora is described as 6-foot-4, with brown curly hair and hazel eyes. He weighs around 210 pounds. Family members say that although recent pictures show him with a beard, he was beardless before he took his trip.
Meanwhile, the family turned to social media earlier this month to help bring Fornatora home. A reward equaling around $4,500 is also being offered to anyone with information that leads authorities to Fornatora. If you’ve seen Darryl Fornatora or have any information on his whereabouts, contact the embassy tip-line at 809-368-7713.
[Photo by “Searching for Darryl Fornatora“/Facebook]