The family of a man from Antigua who escaped custody from a Halifax-area hospital late last month is worried for his well-being and are pleading for him to come forward.
Nova Scotia RCMP said Karin Marley Simons, 32, escaped custody while receiving care at Dartmouth General Hospital on Aug. 30.
A day earlier, Simons was one of two men charged after Quebec RCMP and the Canadian Coast Guard seized 556 kilograms of suspected cocaine from a burning sailboat off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Simons's cousin, Laurie Gonsalves, said his family only learned that Simons was arrested and missing after his mother in Antigua became worried when she hadn't heard from him.
Gonsalves, 37, said Simons and his mother are very close and it was unusual for him not to contact her beyond a few days. She began reaching out to everyone he knows and later came across an article online about the investigation.
Gonsalves questioned why the RCMP did not contact anyone in the family to let them know he was at large.
"[His mother] felt confused, hurt, lost, frustrated, angry," said Gonsalves, who is from Antigua but lives in Windsor, Ont.
Gonsalves said she has since spoken with the RCMP, but has received limited information.
She said the family fears for Simons's safety and is pleading for him to come forward.
"I can only imagine what he's feeling. We just want him back and we are here to support him and through it all," said Gonsalves through tears.
"We need him to know that he is not alone, because I can imagine it must be a terrifying experience to be going through all of this alone in a strange place, but we want him to know that we are here for him."
Simons an experienced sailor
Simons is an esteemed captain with a Royal Yachting Association yachtmaster certificate and has sailed all around the world, said Gonsalves. She said he often takes on freelance delivery jobs, and the family finds his alleged involvement in drug trafficking hard to believe.
"Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We don't know what happened," she said.
Gonsalves said the family is pleading for anyone who might have information about his whereabouts to come forward.
The Quebec RCMP, which is leading the investigation, said in a statement Tuesday it could not provide details of the investigation, "but know that we are still actively looking for him."
There is speculation that Simons could have attempted to flee from Halifax on a boat during Hurricane Larry.
On Friday, Graham Collins received a call from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax to say his boat's emergency beacon had been activated roughly 600 kilometres southeast Halifax in the eye of the hurricane.
He thought his boat was tied up at the Armdale Yacht Club in Halifax.
Boat appeared 'motivated' to head south
In an interview Monday, Collins said a coast guard official hinted that the boat could have been taken by Simons.
"They said that they kind of had an idea of who it would be, and if I looked at the news in the last few weeks, I would figure it out," said Collins, adding that the 10.6-metre boat's track indicated it was "highly motivated" to head south.
Gonsalves said she believes it's possible her cousin was operating that boat. She said if the authorities know something or even suspect that he was on the boat, they need to tell the family.
The U.S. Coast Guard said after the boat's emergency beacon was activated, both the U.S. and Canadian coast guards searched the area.
A spokesperson said the search for the boat was called off Sunday morning because there was no contact from any vessels in distress, no response to radio broadcasts and no sign of debris.
The U.S. Coast Guard referred questions about whether Simons was on the boat to the RCMP.
The Canadian Coast Guard and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax confirmed they were involved in the search, but referred questions to the U.S. Coast Guard, since that organization took the lead.
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