A suburban Philadelphia mother is fighting for her son’s safe return after she says he and five other Americans were unfairly imprisoned during a scuba diving expedition in Honduras.
The family of Devon Butler says the Doylestown native and his dive team traveled to Honduras back on May 1 for a business and humanitarian mission. Butler, 27, is the lead diver for Aqua Quest, an ocean salvaging company based in Florida.
“They were taking mahogany logs from the bottom of a river, which would help with flooding,” said Mike Carroll, Butler’s cousin.
Butler’s mother, Rosemary Carroll, told NBC10 the team also planned on teaching Honduran lobster divers how to dive properly.
In order to protect themselves from pirates, the family said Butler and his crewmates were carrying five guns on their 65-foot boat. It was those weapons that ultimately landed the team in trouble with Honduran law enforcement.
On May 5, as the crew arrived on their boat in Ahuas, Honduras, they were intercepted by Honduran officials. The men were then arrested and charged with smuggling weapons. They have been detained in a Honduran prison since then.
“It’s unjust, it’s not right, and it’s illegal,” Mike Carroll said.
Family members of the crew as well as officials with Aqua Quest insist that the men broke no laws and that Honduran authorities had been alerted of their plans to bring weapons well in advance.
Stephen Mayne, a brother of one of the jailed Americans, told the Philadelphia Daily News that the weapons never even left the boat. Rosemary Carroll also told the Daily News the guns were legally permitted in compliance with international maritime law.
Since their imprisonment, the family has called upon lawyers and lawmakers to find a way to bring the men back home. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County, has also joined the fight, saying he is working with U.S. officials and has reached out to the Honduran ambassador for help.
"It is my understanding that these Americans were invited by a local Honduran government as part of a humanitarian mission," Fitzpatrick said in a statement. "I will continue to work for their swift release and respectfully ask the Honduran government to act with urgency."
Family members are also asking the public to sign an online petition urging government officials to help with the release of the crewmembers. You can find that petition here.