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U.S. college graduate likely victim of Costa Rica drowning

May 15, 2009

The Costa Rica National Coast Guard found the body of a young male floating in the water one nautical mile from the coast of Playa Savegre on the Central Pacific Monday night.

The identity of the body could not be confirmed, but officials believe it to be that of Aly Zain Salin Lakdawala, a 21-year-old University of South Florida graduate and U.S. resident. According to police, Lakdawala had been swimming at Playa Dominical, about 10 miles southeast of Playa Savegre.

Friends reported Lakdawala missing on Sunday after having last seen him at approximately 3 p.m. They described him as being 5 foot, 5 inches tall and 145 pounds with black hair and of Middle Eastern ethnicity. Patricia Meléndez, spokeswoman for the Public Security Ministry, said the body that the Coast Guard found at 10 p.m. Monday matches that description.

Meléndez was unsure if Playa Dominical had a visible system that indicated a strong undertow or dangerous waves, but she said that “in general, beaches don´t have physical warning signs.” She said the Red Cross issues daily updates on water conditions and recommends that beach-goers call the municipality for this information.

The U.S. State Department advises tourists to exercise “extreme caution” when swimming in Costa Rica´s open waters. According to the department´s Web site, eight to 12 U.S. citizens drown in Costa Rica every year “due to riptides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water.” Police said Sunday´s drowning is believed to be the third case in a week of a U.S. citizen swept out to sea in Costa Rica.

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