New hope for Danielle Wright?

by Walter Pierce

What does Salvadoran fisherman Jose Salvador Avarenga have to do with a 19-year-old UL Lafayette student who vanished seven months ago? Possibly a lot.

Danielle Wright

What does Salvadoran fisherman Jose Salvador Avarenga have to do with a 19-year-old UL Lafayette student who vanished off the coast of New Zealand seven months ago? Possibly a lot.

The Associated Press reported Monday on the extraordinary story of Alvarenga, who claims to have survived 13 months aboard a 23-foot fiberglass boat following a storm that blew him off course from the Mexican coast where he had set off for a daily shark-fishing excursion, casting him and a teenage helper (whom Alvarenga claims died aboard the boat) adrift across the Pacific Ocean. In generally good health but with a long hair and beard, the castaway was discovered on the tiny atoll of Ebon in the remote Marshall Islands some 5,500 miles away. Alvarenga claims to have survived on fish birds and turtles.

Now consider the case of Danielle Wright, the now 19-year-old student from Lafayette who set out on an excursion with six experienced crew members aboard an antique yacht, the Nina, in June of 2013. The boat was hit by a huge storm, but text messages were sent from the vessel after the storm, indicating it didn't sink.

Since then, Danielle's parents, Ricky and Robin Wright, have spent roughly half a million dollars and traveled back and forth to New Zealand and Australia in an effort to recover their daughter. Tantalizing clues including a grainy satellite image from the Tasmin Sea showing what appears to be the drifting yacht have fueled the Wright's quest.

A grainy satellite image of what might be a
boat (along with a computer enhancement)
spotted in an area in the Tasmin Sea,
with a scale rendering of the Nina,
has helped fuel the Wrights' belief that
their daughter's boat is adrift with survivors.

According to a story posted a couple of weeks ago by Britain's Daily Mail, the Wrights, frustrated by what they characterize as the U.S. State Department and Aussie officials washing their hands of the case, are currently living in Australia as Ricky Wright takes flying lessons so he can conduct his own search of the vast area where the Nina might be aimlessly drifting. But the Wrights remain convinced that Danielle and her fellow crew members could very well be alive and surviving as Alvarenga did for nearly twice as long.

We reached out to Robin Wright via email and have yet to hear back from her. We'll update this blog when/if we do. In the meantime, supporters of the Wrights are also making hay with the Alvarenga story; links to the story began appearing Monday morning on a Facebook page - Holding Hope for the Nina - devoted to the search for Danielle et al.

Read the latest on the search for the Nina at the Daily Mail. For the story on castaway Jose Avarenga, click here.