In 2014, Dutch students and roommates Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon disappeared during a trip to Panama. The pair had become friends whilst completing their studies at the University of Utrecht for Froom, whilst Kremers had graduated from Deventer with a degree in Applied Sciences. Both girls were described by family and friends as outgoing, optimistic and wanting to see the world. This was part of the reason why they had decided to save up and planned their big trip to Panama together – to learn Spanish and to help do volunteer work to improve the lives of local children. However, the pair mysteriously disappeared shortly after beginning their six week trip to the South American country.
Arriving on March 15th 2014, the two girls initially enjoyed an interesting and uneventful trip, touring around the cultural hubs of Panama as they made their way to Boquete, a small mountain town on the banks of the Caldera River that borders Costa Rica and enjoys cooler temperatures as a result of its high altitude, making it perfect for hiking. The pair arrived at this picturesque town on March 29th and stayed with a local family, who were providing them with accommodation whilst Kremers and Froon started their charitable volunteer work with the local children. The two girls wanted to make the most of their time in Boquete, and on April 1st they decided to go hiking in the local area, choosing a route through the forests close to the town and on the borders of the nearby Baru volcano. Investigators were able to know this was their plan exactly as the girls had written on Facebook their plans to take this popular hiking route. The Facebook post also mentions that the pair had enjoyed lunch with two Dutch men who were also travelling in the Boquete area too. As part of their hike, Kremers and Froon took a dog with them who belonged to a local restaurateur. However, when night fell, the dog came back to the town but the two Dutch students were nowhere to be found.
Alarmed, the restaurateur who owned the dog reported the girls missing. As authorities began to investigate the unusual disappearance, they discovered that Froon’s parents had also not heard from their daughter either, which was out of the ordinary as she had been texting them daily with updates on their trip. The next day, April 2nd, the girls failed to show up to their scheduled appointment with a tour guide, increasing fears in the local area that something terrible had happened to the pair. With the help of local residents, the authorities searched the forest and by April 6th, the parents of the two girls had arrived in Panana along with Dutch police to assist in the search for the missing Dutch nationals. As part of their determination to discover any news of their missing daughters, the parents of Kremers and Froon offered an incentive for information of $30,000.
Weeks went by and there was still no further sightings or information as to what had happened to Kremers or Froon. Then just over two months later, a woman came forward. She had found a blue backpack on the borders of her village, Alto Romero, located in Bocas del Toro area. Inside the backpack were a number of items belonging to Lisanne Froon, including both Kremers and Froon’s mobile phones. Both phones revealed that the girls had tried to dial the emergency number for Panama, 911, as well as the international emergency number of 112, multiple times. However, due to the poor reception in the area as a result of the dense forest vegetation, none of the calls for help had connected successfully. The mobile phones also showed that the girls had first tried to call for help at the start of their hike on April 1st and again on April 3rd, before a final attempt on April 5th had been made until the battery had presumably died. On April 6th, it seems as if someone else may have tried to access the girl’s phones, with multiple unsuccessful and incorrect PIN attempts made. Between April 7th and April 11th, a total of 77 attempts were again made to contact the emergency services without success. The mobile phones were never used again after this time.
Along with their mobile phones, the backpack also contained Froon’s camera. The authorities had hoped this might reveal more information as to what exactly happened to the two girls, but the photographs taken were vague and inconclusive. One set of photographs, which were taken at the start of the hike on April 1st, showed the girls starting out on the trail past the Continental Divide, with photographs only showing wilderness and forest. The next set of photographs were taken on April 8th, a week later, and show nothing but almost total darkness, taken presumable deep in the forest between 1am – 4am. Other photographs show that the girls had possibly wandered close to a river, whilst others show items such as sweet wrappers and toilet paper. However, the photographs revealed nothing concrete as to what had happened to the missing Dutch girls.
After the backpack had been recovered, authorities began to search the area close to Culebra. Here they found some of Kremers clothes close to where the backpack had been found. Months passed, yet nothing more was heard of the missing girls. Then two months later, remains were finally found. These included a foot still inside a boot, a pelvis and 33 other bones which were all found along the same river bank. DNA testing confirmed without doubt that these remains were indeed those of Froon and Kremers. By the state of the bones, it seemed as if Froon had decomposed naturally, whilst Kremers bones were starkly white, as if they had been bleached. Although authorities were quick to state the incident was an accident, and that the girls had possibly been dragged by the river, others remain unconvinced and the mystery of the Dutch students disappearance remains unsolved.