The family of two Americans who may have been killed after prison escapees allegedly hijacked their yacht in Grenada are clinging to hope that the couple will be found alive.

The couple has been identified by their yacht club as Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry, a Virginia couple who were spending the winter sailing in the Eastern Caribbean after sailing their yacht, Simplicity, from Hampton, Virginia, to Antigua.

Authorities have yet to confirm the couple’s identities, but Grenada police have said they have back in custody three men who escaped from prison on February 18 and may have killed two people believed to be U.S. citizens. .

Brandel’s son, Nick Buro, told CNN on Sunday that they were hopeful the couple could be found safe and sound, but evidence at Simplicity suggested violent scenes.

“The ship itself was looted and everything was strewn throughout the cabin, so clearly there was some type of altercation on the ship, which indicates that we are concerned for their safety in general because it seems that they were probably injured. ,” he said.

“They were very careful to be safe the entire time,” Buro said. “Everywhere they went, everything they did, safety was their number one concern, so I think this unfortunate accident came out of the blue for them.”

Buro said the search effort is ongoing. “As far as we know, three suspects allegedly linked to this horrible event are detained by the St. Vincent police and are being questioned,” he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to get answers and figure out what’s next in terms of hopefully finding them safely recovered somewhere on the islands,” Nick Buro told CNN on Sunday. “But of course, from the evidence that was found on the ship, we are concerned that there is a possibility that they may not be with us.”

Buro said his mother and Hendry were experienced sailors and had sold their house years ago to buy a boat.

“It was his home. Everything they had, everything they owned, was on that boat. It was his life,” she said. “Kathy worked her entire life and then retired. Ralph worked in financial services and continued to work from the boat. But in reality what they did was sell their house, sell their possessions, buy a boat and choose a lifestyle that most of us would never imagine we could have. And they loved every minute, they saw many parts of the world and lived a life of joy and love.”

This winter was the first time his mother and stepfather sailed to the Caribbean, Buro said, a trip they had been planning for years.

He said the couple had a strong connection to Virginia’s Christian community and a prayer service was held in their honor on Saturday.

“The outpouring from the boating community, family and friends, his entire church, everything has overwhelmingly been an outpouring of emotion, of support, love and care,” Buro told CNN.

In a previous press release, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association paid tribute to the missing sailors.

“Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry are veteran cruisers and long-time members of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association since its inception. Kind-hearted and capable, they both contributed to the building of SDSA and Kathy served on the association’s board of directors for two years,” the statement said.

The club shared a statement from Brandel and Hendry’s family.

“We want to reach out to the entire cruise community to express our gratitude to everyone who worked to gather information from eyewitnesses and provide search and rescue support. It means so much to us that so many people cared about Ralph and Kathy as friends and fellow travelers who are willing to stop and help in any way possible,” Nick Buro and Hendry’s son, Bryan Hendry, said in the statement.

The family also asked other sailors and anyone not affiliated with the official investigation to cease their searches and thanked the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police and the Coast Guard for their investigations.

“The only way we believe this situation could get worse would be if someone were injured or in danger while attempting to conduct searches,” the statement read.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up in Nick Buro’s name to help fund the recovery of the couple’s yacht and belongings, funeral costs and support.

According to the Salty Dawg Boating Association, a passing “good Samaritan” contacted her on February 21 after finding the Simplicity anchored and abandoned off the south coast of St. Vincent.

“The good Samaritan boarded the ship and noticed that the owners, Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel, were not on board and found evidence of apparent violence,” he said. They found contact details for the club and also contacted the Coast Guard, which notified St. Vincent police, the association said.

On Wednesday, the day the boat was found, Kathy turned 71, according to Buro. Saturday, March 2, will be Ralph’s 67th birthday, his son Bryan Hendry told CNN.

“We are very grateful for the efforts of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Grenada authorities, including the police departments and coast guards of each of those countries, in coordinating this investigation and quickly apprehending these dangerous subjects, recovering Simplicity and “We took him to security as quickly as they did. They have been very hospitable and helpful to us,” Hendry said.

Bob Osborn, the club’s president, offered his condolences to the families and said the violence was unprecedented.

“This is a very disturbing event and authorities have not yet confirmed the details, but it appears to be a tragic event – our hopes and prayers are with Ralph and Kathy and the family that loves them,” Osborn said in a statement. “I have spoken to the families and offered our deepest condolences and help in any way possible. In all my years of sailing in the Caribbean, I had never heard of anything like this.”

In a statement on Friday, the US State Department said it is “aware of these reports involving US citizens. “We are monitoring the situation and seeking additional information.”

On Saturday, Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Superintendent Junior O. Simmons told CNN that the suspects are cooperating with the investigation and that more information would be released.

CNN’s Jillian Sykes, Abel Alvarado and Aaron Eggleston contributed to this report.

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By Sam