Search for Md. tourist, feared drowned with three others, continues His wife among fatalities when boat sinks in Pacific

June 18, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFf

The search continued yesterday for a retired scientist from Beltsville Agricultural Research Center who has been missing since June 10 when a sightseeing boat capsized near the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador.

Richard Sayre, 80, and Diane Sayre, 70, were thrown from the 70-foot Moby Dick when it hit a rough swell and pitched four of its 15 passengers into the Pacific Ocean. The accident killed two people and left two missing at sea and feared dead.

Rescuers found Diane Sayre's body, but were looking yesterday for Richard Sayre and another passenger, Lyon Zeisler, 75, said Stephen Richards, president of Elderhostel Inc., the Boston-based company that sponsored the trip.

The body of Donna Robert, 75, was found Sunday after washing up on an island 70 miles from where the boat sank, he said.

"It's a shame because they were such nice people," said Robert Halper, a former neighbor of the Sayres in the Calverton section of Beltsville.

The 11 surviving passengers gave various accounts of the ordeal this week.

"The boat was rocking a lot, and some barstools fell over," said Marolyn Welch, 71, of Corvallis, Ore. "And then, all of a sudden, it just lurched and water was pouring in the boat."

Welch recalled a dramatic moment after the ship sank, when Richard Sayre simply said "Goodbye" to survivors before relaxing his grasp on a buoy and slipping beneath the water.

The accident occurred on the third day of the South American trip, for which passengers each paid more than $3,000.

Richards said Elderhostel has been sponsoring trips for five years to the Galapagos, which are 600 miles west of the Ecuadorean mainland and are home to numerous unique forms of animal and plant life.

He said the accident was the first serious mishap since Elderhostel, which sponsors educational tours and trips, began in 1973.

The Sayres' daughter, Janet Sayre of Chicago, said her parents had traveled on several Elderhostel trips, including Australia and France, and had never experienced any problems.

She said her father was born in Hillsboro, Ore., and spent a 30-year career as a plant pathologist at the Beltsville lab, where he specialized in nematode research.

He retired about three years ago and the couple moved from Beltsville to a condominium in College Park, she said.

Richard Sayre was active in the Boy Scouts and was a ham radio operator. He also traveled to give speeches about his work searching for biological measures to control nematodes -- microscopic worms that destroy crops.

When he retired, he volunteered at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and took classes in painting at the University of Maryland.

Diane Sayre was a native of Windsor, Ontario, who worked as a schoolteacher and a secretary before the couple married and moved to Beltsville in 1965.

The couple attended Silver Spring Presbyterian Church and Riverdale Presbyterian Church, where Diane Sayre was FTC handbell ringer and worked as a secretary, according to the daughter.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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