Murdered Ex-Pat Sailor Brings Out the Worst Panama Journalism

Friday and Saturday, I witnessed examples of bad conduct by various media organizations in Panama.

I saw the first example Friday when I dropped into the Panama Guide and saw an article written by Don Winner who runs the Panama Guide. It was titled “The Murder of World Famous Sunken Treasure Hunter Bo Kjaer-Olsen in the Republic of Panama”.

The US Embassy had contacted me following the murder and had asked me to assist the family in anyway I could because one of the family members was a US citizen. Since that time I have been involved with the son, his pregnant wife and the rest of the family.

Because I have been working with all members of the family, I have a pretty good understanding of what happened as well as other details, which I feel benefit no one by being put into print. With my new relationship with the Olsen family, I was interested to see what was in Don’s article.

When I read Don’s current article, I was amazed at what had been written as factual, but was mostly false. The correct parts were the parts of the article that had been googled on the Internet in a source that Don referenced called “The Skeleton Holds Billions”.

I also saw that there were photos in the article that came from other sources that were not given credit for their usage. Here is the photo of the Antares from realadventures.com.

Antares under sail Isla Cocos Costa Rica - No footprint beaches and pink sunsets
Antares under sail Isla Cocos Costa Rica – No footprint beaches and pink sunsets

You can compare the photo to Don’s article’s photo and see that they appear to be the same photo, except someone had removed the watermarking giving credit to realadventures.com.

Don always gives permission to everyone to use anything in his website as long as they give Don Credit, so I am sure it must have been an oversight in his not also giving credit.

Back to the article. The first thing that caught my eye after reading title he chose to use for the article, was

Bo Kjaer-Olsen was a famous salvage diver and treasure hunter who probably had about $200,000 dollars worth of 17th Century Spanish gold on his boat, enough to lure the five men who attacked his family and killed him.

This was his tickler line to get you to read the rest of the article. It worked, I clicked on “Read the rest of the article”.

After wading through the information that I see is easily googled “The Skeleton Holds Billions”, Don had a paragraph entitled “Gold On Board?”

Here is that part.

It turns out Bo had recently completed a salvage operation in Honduras of a sunken treasure ship and the government of that country had paid him in Spanish gold – about $200,000 dollars worth. Apparently, Bo might have had that on board and that certainly would have been enough to attract the five armed gunmen who came onto his boat. I was also told Bo had a “habit of having large amounts of cash on the boat.” Also, gold or no gold, large amounts of cash are a bad-guy magnet.

This is truly new material and only found in Don’s article. From the family talking with Bo’s boating friends, they learned that no boater would be foolish enough to store extreme valuables on board a ship, and Bo’s friends said the thought was absurd.

Don obviously did not verify this information because it just not true. It makes interesting reading, but it is all fiction. Now whoever fed Don this information (assuming Don didn’t dream it up himself), might be a person of interest to the police, because spreading that rumor would certainly create interest among thieves and murderers.

The reason, I feel it worthwhile to debunk this rumor is because Don gave no consideration to the effect that writing this article might have on the family. The son, Zach, is currently in the Regional hospital and is struggling with the sad realization that his lifelong friend and best buddy (his dad) will no longer be with him. Still he is going to have to decide what he wants to do with his future and whether the boat has a place in his life. Now, however, he has to worry that other crazed fools that read Don’s article will return to search again for the gold.

LET ME MAKE THIS VERY CLEAR! THERE IS NO GOLD and THERE WAS NO GOLD. While rumors are easy to come by, they really should be verified before they are printed as fact.

The second media disappointment came after I picked up the brother and sister of Bo Olsen, who had just arrived from Australia. They were obviously tired from a strenuous trip and depressed from the loss of loved and admired brother. There were several things we needed to do. See Zach at the hospital, get the paperwork taken care of to release the body from the morgue and possibly see the ship at the Marina. While at the morgue, one of the TV stations came by and wanted to take photos of the brother and sister. The media was told that they wanted their privacy. The first station respectively left with that request. My hat goes off to them. However, the next station, who was told the same thing, must have had a miniature camera and took the videos anyway. I know, because I watched them on TV.

I wish I could say that I am surprised by the actions of the media sources above , but I am not.

There is, however, a story that needs to be told about this tragedy. It is a true story and I learned it from those in the story. I will be told when I get a chance to write it. It is a story of true heroism and bravery and when I heard it, it literally brought tears to my eyes. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. While the senseless murder of Bo Olsen shows the darker and most unsavory side of Panama, the story to be told will demonstrate the best of Panama. To be continued.

18 thoughts on “Murdered Ex-Pat Sailor Brings Out the Worst Panama Journalism

  1. To be fair, I trust you intend to name all media sources and thier principals not just one.

  2. Its a sad story to read, but I dont think its the dark side of Panama, its the dark side of the world….this can and does happen everywhere……unfortunately.

  3. Hi Don Ray,
    I don’t know if the photo is original to realadventures but I found it here (and other sites) now with credit to panamaguide:

    http://www.sejlnet.dk/artikler/pirater-myrder-dansk-sejler

    A google translation repeats the “gold on board” comment as fact.

    Irresponsible reporting is inexcusable in these times of unlimited access to information. Unfortunately, anyone with a computer and a web site can now post any manner of exaggeration for the purpose of boosting web hits.
    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  4. Yes, it is unfortunate that this sort of misinformation gets out, but that is the nature of the Internet. I have spent every day since last Friday with the family, the police and the port authorities.

  5. Don,

    I am a member of the cruising community here in Panama. All of us were deeply distressed and alarmed when we heard about the murder of Mr. Olsen. Hopefully you will be able to release details as soon as possible so that we can take action to prevent having this happen again.

  6. Once again Don you have stepped up to help out when needed. You are a credit to the expat community here.

  7. Dear Don,

    The victim’s family is lucky to have your help. Thank you, so much, for your post–for helping us sort out what is fact and what is actually false. I read all the newspapers and Panama news I can get my hands on and don’t know how I missed this sad news. Thanks to you I’ve learned about it. Hope to read your next post. Thank you.

    Jessica Ramesch
    Editor
    International Living Panama

  8. Dear Don and Lillian

    From the depth of our hearts. Thank you for helping Zeck, Sugey, my sister and I through this terrible time. I have quite frankly NEVER met such beautful people before. You are unique and we would not have coped if it was not for both of you.

    We look forward to seeing you in Australia !

    Much love and affection

    Pia and Kim

  9. Mr. Don, is there any truth then to the 2 killers of Americans that have just been detained in Nicaragua? Panama-Guide has a bunch written on there, but now, reading through ChiCha (ChiriquiChatter) I have reason to believe the story is not “all there”. can you share what you know and also if it is safe to assume that the SkinHead couple, the “cortez-Reese’ duo may have committed this crime as well?

  10. I believe what is written about the “2 killers of Americans” corresponds with what is being broadcast on the television new. They have nothing to do with the two murders in Chiriqui (Dolega and Pedregal).

  11. Please relay my condolences to the family. I hope to meet with you soon in Costa Rica. Bo and I went back a long way. It was an honor to have him as a guest in my home. I hope the Antares crew will call me as soon as a visit is possible.
    What an enormous loss for us all.

    Captain Harv Brinson

  12. I had the adventure sailing and swimming with Zach and Bo at the Isla De Coco in 2003. Zack was just 17 and as agile as a fish, i was 41 at the time and Zack was my leader in the water, the coolest and most well defined adventure pal ever. Bo and i fished lobster every night and ventured into a cave where we encountered a jules verne sized octopus that spun us around in a hurry.. Bo said to me ” Did u see the size of that thing?, Sonne, he said, if a shark gets a hold of you..I could save you.. But if this octo gets you, its over..

    I was stunned. We ventured and encountered stones (large) inscribed with “Morgan 99” to the which Bo said, “it time past any man encountering such a place would be killed in short order, Morgan was the mac daddy of all Pirates!”

    One of our crew had had a heart attack and died b4 our eyes while we were moored at Golfito, CR. Bo calmy performed cpr and brought him back to life in short order then finished his lunch and carried on his day like it was no big deal! I was there;

    Bo and Zack are real “crocadile Dundee’s.. and, really kind and generous people.. The search for booty is more for adventure and exploration and they’re reward is the experience of living life outside the box. Those money grubbing rejects who commit crimes and murder are missing the point completely. Bo and Zack and those like them have learned how to live and will live on.. For me and some of those who shared with them.

    -Sonne

  13. Yeah the skeleton holds billions is accurate. Bo wrote it and had me design that page for him, as well as another page for educational purposes.

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