2 dead, 1 missing after students swept out to sea

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A strong undertow in the Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica swept a group of Ohio high school students out to sea while they took a beach break during a religious mission trip, killing two of them and leaving a third missing.

The current pulled them away from shore Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement from their school, Patriot Preparatory Academy in Columbus. They were among eight juniors and seniors taking a service trip not sponsored by the school and were to return home Thursday.

Two other students also were swept away by the rip current near the town of Parrita but were rescued by lifeguards, the Tico Times newspaper in Costa Rica reported.

The first body recovered was that of Caity Jones. James Smith's body was recovered Thursday, and authorities were still searching for Kai Lamar, said Freddy Roman, a spokesman for the Costa Rican Red Cross. All three were juniors.

The students had been taking Wednesday, their final day in Costa Rica, as a free day. The three swept away were described as active in school and the community, well-liked and good students.

The mission was organized by Ohio-based Impulse International Mission Trips. The students were working at an orphanage and a drug rehabilitation center, among other places, according to a post by Lamar on a blog the group is keeping on the trip.

The visit to the orphanage "was one of the most touching things I had ever seen," he wrote in the post, dated April 28-29. "I became attached to one child in particular, and I learned much of how that place worked. ... I even shed a few tears as we left."

Members of The Redeemer's on Courtright Church in Columbus, which Smith's family attends, had been praying for good news, said associate pastor Rick Kulich.

"It's a great loss for our church," he said. "It's a great loss for the Body of Christ because this kid was going to go somewhere. It's just sad."

The boy's father and the church's pastor, Dwight Bennett, were traveling to Costa Rica together on Thursday, the associate pastor said.

Jones "was just a marvelous person, very outgoing," said Paul Blythe, a friend of the Jones family and a school board member whose children graduated from the school.