Family members are searching for answers after a former soldier and Connecticut National Guardsman disappeared on a scuba diving trip off the coast of Thailand.
Joshua Michael Devine, 36, vanished from a tour boat Saturday morning in the Similan Islands. The Massachusetts native grew up in Southington and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He now lives in Kuwait and 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 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 was gone.
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 the missing man's mother, Marie Major.
The family wonders why officials haven't acted more aggressively 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."
Although Thailand is now celebrating a national holiday and has called off its search, Major 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."
"Somebody help us get him home," Bakowski pleaded.
Photo Credit: Family Photos