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Friends And Family Remember St. John Boat Captain Richard Benson As A ‘Great Man’ … Lost In Hurricane Irma

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CRUZ BAY — Friends and family of longtime St. John charter captain Richard Benson are mourning his death after his body was found in the British Virgin Islands.

Linda Worthington, Benson’s ex-wife, said in an email from her home in Belize that “there has been an outpouring of compassion and love from so many people that loved Richard.”

Friends believe that Benson left St. John on his 84-foot wooden charter yacht, the Goddess Athena, in an effort to outrun Hurricane Irma.

Family and friends from around the world posted messages online hoping that he would be found safe, but his body was recently located and the Goddess Athena remains missing.

Worthington said a friend sent her an online article “that talked of an unidentified man found washed ashore near The Moorings on Tortola. The article described the man and it fit Richard to a tee.”

That article, published on Virgin Islands News Online on Sept. 23, said the body had been found near The Moorings in Wickham’s Cay II, Tortola, the day after Hurricane Irma struck.

Worthington said she contacted the Royal Virgin Islands Police in Road Town, but lack of power and inconsistent cellphone service hampered efforts to make a positive identification.

“He finally sent me a picture of the body. It was Richard,” Worthington wrote.

Worthington wrote that she was married to Benson for 15 years and moved to St. Thomas in 1989, where the couple went through Hurricane Hugo together.

“Our son, Daniel Benson, was born on St. Thomas and still lives on St. John now. We also endured Hurricane Marilyn in ‘95 staying aboard a boat in a slip in Benner Bay in St. Thomas when Daniel was four. The stories of that night and the nightmares that followed will be with me always,” Worthington wrote.

Worthington said she has been working with people on the Stateside St. Johnians Alliance Facebook site to try to locate Benson and the Goddess Athena.

“The wonderful people on that site have helped me to find out that my son was safe from both Irma and Maria,” Worthington wrote.

She notified her son of Benson’s death, and forwarded the photo of his body to his two daughters from a previous marriage, Jennifer of Idaho, and Jessica of California, who agreed it was indeed their father.

“I am working to get Richard’s remains released from the BVI but the red tape and paperwork are going to be overwhelming,” Worthington wrote.

She’s reached out to the U.S. State Department for help, and plans to travel to St. John to receive Benson’s remains and return them to the island he loved.

There has been an outpouring of condolences and remembrances for Benson online from those who worked with him and booked charters on the Goddess Athena over the years.

“Richard was truly a great man, and he will be missed dearly,” Brittanee Lee said.

Lee said she met Benson her second season working on St. John when he needed a first mate.

“I was eager to be on the water and to work aboard the massive ‘pirate ship’ that stood so very tall in Frank Bay,” Lee wrote.

He trained her on how to properly run a dinghy and provision for charters, and they went on many sails that 2015 season, Lee wrote.

“I did daylong cruises, sunset sails, and even snorkel trips with groups as small as three people, to a pirate themed surprise birthday party with 18! The Goddess Athena is where I obtained my sea legs,” Lee wrote. “Literally one of the best jobs I’ve had in my lifetime — and I know nothing will ever compare to the days and nights spent sailing with Richard.”

She closely monitored the stateside St. Johnian Facebook group for word of Benson and “I’m not the only one who felt such pain, heartache, and fear the week and days after the storm,” Lee wrote. “My heart goes out to Daniel, his son, who I was fortunate to work with a few times on the Goddess Athena- Daniel is SO TALENTED and he will carry out the legacy of his father, I’m sure. Richard was a truly great man, and he will be missed dearly.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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