Massachusetts Couple Stranded On Honduran Island Makes It Back To U.S.

Beth Rosenzweig and Ray Bahr are stuck in Utila, Honduras, while waiting for a travel ban to and from the country to be lifted. (Courtesy photo)
Beth Rosenzweig and Ray Bahr are stuck in Utila, Honduras, while waiting for a travel ban to and from the country to be lifted. (Courtesy photo)

Editor's note: After this story was published on Sunday, Rosenzweig and Bahr were able to get on a plane and landed Monday morning in Boston. 

On March 9, Beth Rosenzweig and Ray Bahr arrived on the Honduran island of Utila for a week of scuba diving.

But during their vacation, the novel coronavirus pandemic rapidly grew, and countries began closing their borders to stave off the spread — like Honduras. The married couple, who are from Carlisle, Massachusetts, now find themselves deserted on an island, trying to get back home.

On March 15, just a day before Rosenzweig and Bahr were scheduled to head home, the Honduran government imposed a curfew and banned travel to and from the country. The travel ban is supposed to last a week. But when the border opens, there's no guarantee American-bound flights will be available.

Rosenzweig and Bahr say they are ready.

"We currently have $10,000 in tickets that we've had to purchase to hedge our bets in the hopes of getting home," said Rosenzweig, 61. "Perhaps nonrefundable, just to get home."

They have seats on a plane scheduled to leave on March 28 from mainland Honduras, but they don't know how or when they'll be able to get there from Utila.

They've reached out to commercial airlines, charter airlines, the U.S. Embassy in Honduras and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. They said Rep. Lori Trahan's office has been helpful, but they feel they're running out of time.

With so many people in a small geographical space, Bahr said if someone on the island has coronavirus, "it's not going to be good." And Bahr fears there are no resources on the island to treat them.

"We're dead," he said, if they don't get out soon. "Or we're sick. COVID-19 is going to be ubiquitous."

Bahr said he doesn't like how the U.S. government has handled the crisis on a large scale and also feels personally let down in their struggle to get off Utila.

"They don't care. They're ignoring us. They're pretending everything is fine," he told WBUR on the phone Saturday. "We're really nervous, because if we get sick, we're on our own."

Bahr, 63, said they need to be back stateside.

There are more than 500 known cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts, as of Saturday afternoon. State officials anticipate the number to grow as testing capacity increases. Still, Bahr said the couple would rather take their chances at home.

"If we're going to hunker down for a long period of time, we want to do it in a place that's familiar to us," he said. "Where we have familiarity with the land, where we understand the rule of law."

Rosenzweig and Bahr aren't the only Massachusetts residents trying to get back home from far reaches of the world. Gov. Charlie Baker said his office has been in direct contact with people and, in some instances, their Congressional representatives to try to get people back home.

"It's a real issue and a legitimate concern," Baker said, following a press conference Saturday. "And it's one we're working on literally every day."

And every day, Rosenzweig and Bahr are contacting any official and any airline they can to get them back to Carlisle.

"If someone gets sick here, we're basically out of luck," Bahr said.

This article was originally published on March 22, 2020.

Quincy Walters Producer, WBUR Podcasts
Quincy Walters is a producer for WBUR Podcasts.



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