Connecticut Soldier Vanishes on Scuba Diving Trip in Thailand - NBC Connecticut

Connecticut Soldier Vanishes on Scuba Diving Trip in Thailand

Thailand Renews Search for Missing Soldier

Officials in Thailand have renewed their search for a former soldier and Connecticut National Guardsman who disappeared on a scuba diving trip off the country's coast. (Published Tuesday, April 14, 2015)

Officials in Thailand have renewed their search for a former Connecticut National Guardsman who disappeared on a scuba diving trip off the country's coast.

Joshua Michael Devine, 36, was on a diving trip with his wife, a native of Thailand, when he vanished from a tour boat Saturday morning that was heading to the Similan Islands, according to the Phuket Gazette.

The Massachusetts native grew up in Waterbury and Southington and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school.

Devine was a member of the Connecticut National Guard from June 2002 until January 2006.

Soldier Disappears on Scuba Trip in Thailand

[HAR] Soldier Disappears on Scuba Trip in Thailand
There are more questions than answers in the case of Joshua Devine, a former Connecticut National Guardsman who vanished from a tour boat in Thailand. His family says the story just doesn't add up.
(Published Monday, April 13, 2015)

"On behalf of the Connecticut National Guard, I want to express that our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time," Capt. Mike Petersen, director of public affairs for the Connecticut National Guard, said in a statement Tuesday.

According to the Gazette, Devine is now based in Kuwait, where he works as a civilian on a U.S. military base. He loves spending time in the water.

"He had been looking forward to this trip for months. He had gone on the trip before but didn't get to see the whale sharks, so he was really looking forward to this," said his sister, Enfield resident Jennifer Bakowski.

But something went very wrong.

"At midnight on the 11th, he set sail on the boat, and at 4 a.m. the same day he was gone... just gone," Bakowski said.

Witnesses told the family that Devine was aggressive and paranoid on the boat, so two other divers brought him into a storage room in hopes of calming him down. They left for 15 minutes, and when they returned, he wasn't there.

They also said Devine had been drinking heavily with other divers, a move Bakowski describes as uncharacteristic.

"He's a master diver, rescue diver, a dive instructor," she explained. "He's just the most responsible person I know, and for him to get drunk before going into the water, especially within a couple hours..."

Devine's mother, too, said it's an unlikely story.

"This is not Josh, and it didn't happen from drinking because he doesn't drink before a dive," said Marie Major.

The family wonders why officials didn't take more immediate action to find Devine – and why it took so long for his fellow divers to report him missing.

"At no point did they stop the boat to look for him. They searched the boat up and down, and for whatever reason, waited six hours before contacting the Marine police, and by that time, they were now six hours from the location he went in the water," Bakowski said. "They continued on with the rest of their vacation like nothing happened."

She wonders if maybe his disappearance wasn't an accident.

"I don't want to accuse people of being awful to someone else, but it's the only thing in my mind that makes sense – that they drugged him in some way," Bakowski said. "The way they portray it, it doesn't happen, you know? The version of events just doesn't happen the way they're saying."

Thailand initially called off its search while the country celebrated a national holiday. But the Thai Royal Navy sent out a search boat and helicopter on Tuesday and is questioning the five other divers.

"They basically want to see if their stories match the first interview, if they can get any more information about Josh's condition before he went missing," Bakowski explained.

Major said she remains hopeful.

"I think he's sitting on an island somewhere, waiting for us to come and get him and wondering what's taking so long," she said. "He is the most intelligent person I know. He is the most resourceful person I know." 

Family members are spreading the word on Facebook about Devine's disappearance and raising money for a trip to Thailand, where they plan to restart the search for their loved one.

The boat was due back to port Tuesday.

"Somebody help us get him home," Bakowski pleaded.

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