Caitlyn Shelton, Brooke Shafer
(NewsNation) — Seven men from Haiti, all linked to the Special Olympics USA Games, have vanished in central Florida over the past week. Authorities are puzzled.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday announced the search for a seventh Haitian delegate to the Special Olympics. Investigators say Louis Wilguens was last spotted Saturday getting off a bus at the All Stars Sports Resort on West Buena Vista Drive.
According to authorities, the 25-year-old was scheduled to fly back to Haiti the next morning. He was last seen wearing red sandals, blue jeans and a white Special Olympics shirt with “Haiti” written on it.
The search for Wilguens comes after the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said that they were looking for six missing members of the Haitian delegation involved with the Special Olympics.
Antione Mithon, 32; Nicholson Fontilus, 20; Peter Berlus, 19; Anderson Petit-Frere, 18; Stevenson Jacquet, 24; and Oriol Jean, 18; were reported missing June 7.
The men were last seen at 710 S. Victory Way in Kissimmee, Florida on June 6. Special Olympics organizers have told reporters that five of the men are not Special Olympics athletes, and one is an adult with an intellectual disability.
At this point in the investigation, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office does not suspect foul play. Before the search for Wilguens, they called it an “isolated incident.”
The group in the Orlando area for the Special Olympics reportedly checked out of their hotels, but left all of their belongings behind, law enforcement said.
Vanessa Joseph is an immigration attorney and the vice chair of the Haitian Americans Professionals Coalition. To her, the disappearances just don’t make sense.
“Even if you are going to defect, would you leave your belongings behind?” Joseph asked.
“The first thing that always comes to mind for me in these situations is could this be a situation where they were simply taken advantage of?”
If the delegates decided to stay in the U.S., they would not be the first to do so. Some athletes have taken opportunities like the Olympics to defect, and data from the U.S. Coast Guard shows an uptick in Haitian immigrants coming to the U.S.
So far this year, the Coast Guard reports that 6,000 Haitian migrants have already come into the U.S. That’s up from about 1,500 last year and about 400 from the year prior.
However, at this point, authorities still do not know exactly what happened to the seven delegates and have a lot to learn about the investigation. Their mission now is to find them.
Anyone with information on their whereabouts is urged to call 911 or the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at 407-348-2222.
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