NAU confirms body found offshore in Mexico is missing professor from Flagstaff; her husband remains missing
ROCKY POINT, MEXICO (3TV/CBS 5) - Search and rescue crews looking for the Flagstaff couple who went missing while kayaking in Mexico on Thanksgiving say the body of Yeon-Su Kim was found on Sunday. A search continues to find Kim’s husband, Corey Allen.
Northern Arizona University, where Kim worked as a professor, also confirmed the news in a statement:
Tavane McCombs, who has been coordinating the search, says a panga boat spotted a body floating approximately eight miles off of Mayan Palace in Mexico around 9 a.m. Sunday. “It really was not very far from where the vacation rental was in Playa Encanto, not far away at all from where they got in the water,” said McCombs. “With the wind and that current I know that they probably knew something was up. Even an experienced kayaker would have trouble with what was going on that day.”
Earlier Sunday, the Mexico newspaper El Imparcial reported that the body of one of the two missing Flagstaff residents may have been found on Encanto Beach. The Secretary of the Navy to Civil Protection Sonora also confirmed with El Imparcial that the features of the body found were similar to one of the two missing individuals. A member of the Allen family was contacted and confirmed that the body found was Yeon-Su Kim.
“We hope this family feels like they’re one of our families and that we did the best we can and will do the best that we can,” said McCombs.
While Kim was a professor at NAU, her husband, Allen, is a real estate agent. Because the search is happening south of the border - locals who don’t even know the couple has jumped in to help find them. The couple has two teenage children, and their daughter was with them at the time. Family and search coordinators say Corey took her back to shore when strong winds came up before going to help his wife.
As an NAU forestry professor and a prominent real estate agent, Kim and Allen are a major part of the Flagstaff community. “They are just the nicest family. I mean, I know you interview people and people tell you that, but they really are. They are so lovely and warm and engaging,” said their friend Bryn DeFusco.
DeFusco knows the couple well - her parents lived across the street from them up in Flagstaff, so her kids would play with Kim and Allen’s two kids all the time growing up, and the parents became close. That family dynamic makes what’s happening right now even more difficult for DeFusco to think about. “The kids, I mean obviously that was my first thought. How are the kids going to be… how altered their lives will be in the event their parents aren’t found?” said DeFusco with tears in her eyes.
According to family and search crews, the couple went missing around 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving when the two and their 14-year-old daughter started kayaking on a beach near Rocky Point.
Locals said not only was it windy that day but there was an extreme reverse tide that can change the shoreline level quickly. It was enough for Corey to become concerned about his daughter. “Corey Allen took his daughter back to the shoreline and back to the rental house, and he was going back to help his wife,” said Tavane McCombs, who has been coordinating the local search efforts.
Search coordinators said when he didn’t return home with Kim or their kayaks, their daughter ran to a neighboring home to ask for help.
McCombs is a business owner in Rocky Point, and though she doesn’t know the couple, she knows officials and agencies in the area and can speak English, so she immediately began coordinating local search efforts by sea, land, and air. “We had the Navy, the Marines, the police, panga boats, which is our local fishermen, looking for these people,” said McCombs. “The outpour has been tremendous, just absolutely tremendous.”
They’ve been using Facebook to gather volunteers and have been keeping the couple’s family up to date before they arrived in Mexico Saturday.
Though Kim and Allen were just visiting, the Rocky Point community treated them as if they were locals too, giving this search everything they have. “Thank you to the community in Rocky Point that’s doing everything they can. It’s wonderful, and please know, for those of us that know them and know this family, we appreciate everything that they’re doing,” said DeFusco.
The family has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for the search efforts. If you’d like to donate and help, click here.
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