Diane’s Death

We were on tour in Guatemala with 30 passengers in tow. A few of them were parents of students in the Outtatown faculty at Canadian Mennonite University.

Semesters took place in Manitoba, Western Canada and a foreign country. Wally Schmidt was Director and Diane was Administrator. The fall semester had just begun in February of 2004. Diane organized a tour in which part of the appeal was staying on the hacienda of Tony Mombiela.

Our passengers emerged from the outbuildings, attended a short worship service and piled into a van headed for a day of swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

To get to Tony’s cabin, the van stopped at a small mainland village where people climbed into a motorized dugout and boated down a canal to the Mombiela dock. From there it was up a long flight of stairs, then further up a hill to the cabin.

Everyone ate lunch, and then it was further up a hill and finally down to the water.

The route was important.

The ocean was restless that day. Diane repeatedly warned people they should be careful of the undertow.

People enjoyed themselves on the beach and in the water.

Diane and Elizabeth Duerksen walked along the water intending to warn everyone of danger. The pair came upon a group of seven swimmers.

“Help!” someone shouted from the water. One of the swimmers had lost her footing.

Diane waded into the water and reached out a helping hand. The swimmer grabbed Diane’s hand, but Diane lost her footing as well, and the two of them were swept out to sea.

People on shore were frantic. Two Spanish men from the next cabin got a boat, but it was difficult launching it through the crashing waves. They got it beyond where the waves were breaking and headed for open water. They could see two heads bobbing up and down between the crests.

“There’s the boat,” Diane said.

It pulled alongside. The other woman disentangled herself from Diane because they had been treading water, holding on to each other. She climbed into the boat.

When they looked down, Diane was floating face down. It was difficult getting Diane into the boat. Once they got her up it was impossible for the doctor to give her artificial respiration because of seats bolted to the bottom.

They headed for shore. Several passengers were nurses and tried to revive Diane, but it was too late.

An ambulance had been called. When the paramedics arrived they had to follow the same arduous route with a stretcher from the village on the mainland to the ocean.

Then back, carrying Diane.

Two nurses went along in the ambulance to the Coatepeque Hospital. They said it was their wildest ride ever as people in villages, goats and chickens scattered out of the way of the careening ambulance.

Diane was pronounced DOA upon arrival at the hospital.

I did not go to the ocean that day, and wondered in the evening why everyone was so late.

I left the tour and went home. The body was repatriated a few days later.

There was a funeral, a musical tribute to Diane and my empty apartment.

It was a horrendous event!

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