After dredging a rental car from the Caribbean Sea on Friday, police in the Dominican Republic are solidifying theories about the death of a Westchester couple who disappeared on their way to the airport last month.
National Police commander Frank Félix Duran Mejía told NBC 4 New York that 43-year-old Orlando Moore, coming off of a four-day vacation with girlfriend Portia Ravenelle, may have been speeding when he careened off the road in the early hours of March 27th. Investigators believe that Moore, running late and in a hurry to get to Santo Domingo—driving on an unfamiliar road, in the dark—lost control of the vehicle. Moore had also been drinking in the final hours before the couple left their resort, leading law enforcement to suspect that alcohol may also have played a role.
Investigators reportedly suspect Moore made a wrong turn and was correcting course when he crashed. They believe Ravenelle, whose body fishermen found on the road to the airport later that day, escaped from the car just before it fell into the water. She died in the hospital on April 4th, and without any ID on her person, investigators identified her by her fingerprints.
Moore's body has yet to be identified; law enforcement officers are waiting on his family to confirm that a body pulled from the sea on March 31st is his. The body had badly deteriorated by the time they found it, but investigators hope that family members will recognize a tattoo on the right arm and match it to Moore's.
Security cameras at a tollbooth near Las Americas highway, the route to the airport, captured video of the rental car shortly before the crash. According to CNN, the car landed in an especially turbulent part of the sea locally referred to as "la batidora," or "the blender." The rough, choppy conditions initially prevented authorities from salvaging the vehicle.
Moore and Ravenelle, of Mount Vernon, flew from Newark to the Dominican Republic on March 23rd, and stayed at a resort called the Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa in Samana. Their flight departed around 2 a.m. on the 27th, but the pair never made it on, having vanished sometime after checking out of their hotel. A woman they'd befriended during their stay recalled how, throughout their last day in the DR, Ravenelle worried about making the long trip to the airport late at night. Ravenelle reportedly reiterated warnings she'd been given by the rental car company about muggings, and repeatedly checked that the couple had enough gas in the tank and phones with enough charge on them to use the GPS.