Pompeo: U.S. diplomatic staffer in Colombia missing, presumed dead following boating accident

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (off frame) at the National Arts Center, on August 22, 2019, in Ottawa. (Photo by Sebastien ST-JEAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN ST-JEAN/AFP/Getty Images)

BOGOTA, Columbia —  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that an American staffer from the US Mission in Colombia is missing and presumed dead after a boating accident over the weekend.

“To my entire State Department team, Susan and I are with you in your grief,” Pompeo said. “You have my word the Department will do everything in our power to comfort and support those who have suffered from this devastating loss.”

The top US diplomat, speaking alongside the Colombian president in Bogota, said the boating accident occurred on Saturday and that other government personnel had been involved. Some were rescued with “modest injuries” and one was airlifted to the US for treatment, Pompeo said. The missing worker’s next of kin had been notified, Pompeo said, but they were withholding the individual’s name for privacy considerations.

A spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told CNN that the employee was “on temporary assignment to the US Embassy in Bogota” and was “engaging in tourist activities in Cartagena” when the boating accident occurred.

“We appreciate the Colombian Government’s continued search-and-rescue operation in search of the missing American employee,” they said.

“Other government personnel, some assigned to Colombia and others visiting, were rescued from the capsized boat, some sustaining moderate injuries,” the spokesperson said. “We express our gratitude to the private citizens and Colombian military for rescuing the employees.”

Colombian President Ivan Duque expressed his condolences over the accident. He said Navy, Coast Guard and local services were participating in search efforts for the body of the missing worker.

According to a Monday press release from the Colombian navy, the accident occurred near the Rosario Islands, off the coast of Cartagena. 11 of the 12 passengers in the boat were rescued, the release said.

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