Father of missing Alaska man flies to Costa Rica to join search

Jerzy Shedlock

One of Alaska's most respected and seasoned adventurers has traveled thousands of miles to Costa Rica to ramp up search efforts for his son gone missing in the wilds of the Central American country for two weeks.

Alaska Pacific University environmental science professor Roman Dial holds well-earned fame among wilderness enthusiasts for his globe-trotting treks. He is an experienced outdoorsman, and he passed those skills along to 27-year-old son, Cody Roman Dial.

Friends and family of Cody, or R2 as he is known to many, are now trusting that shared knowledge is helping keep him alive. Still, two weeks with no sign of his whereabouts prompted loved ones to call upon whatever resources are available for help in a search.

The Tico Times, an English-language online newspaper based in San José, Costa Rica, reports that Cody was last seen near Corcovado National Park on July 22. There is no record of his entry into the park; it is believed that Cody followed routes off-limits to tourists, according to the newspaper.

Cody had been traveling in Latin America since January. APU said Cody had taken a hiatus from his pursuit of a master’s degree in environmental science.

The missing man’s mother, Peggy Dial, said she and her husband believe Cody may have climbed down a ravine in an effort to follow a waterway and exit the park. It is possible he fell during the climb, she said.

Those ravines are where Roman is focusing his efforts. New Mexico National Guard personnel are headed to Costa Rica to rappel  into the narrow gorges to assist, said Peggy.

Getting the American reserve force into Costa Rica took effort. When Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell heard about Cody’s disappearance -- the politician is a member of Alaska’s chapter of the Explorers Club, along with Roman -- he began researching which U.S. state had ties to the country.

Treadwell knew Alaska has an agreement with Mongolia to train its armed forces. He went looking for a state linked to Costa Rica and discovered New Mexico has an agreement with the national security forces of that country. However, the Costa Rican president needed to give the OK for American intervention, even for things like search-and-rescues.

“From the discussions I’ve had, the U.S. embassy is on the case and the New Mexico National Guard is working to help,” Treadwell said Monday. “They’re aware of Costa Rica’s capabilities, and now they’re moving forward and may ask for more help.” 

Peggy later reported the National Guard was on its way. Calls to the New Mexico National Guard were not immediately returned Monday.

A member of the Explorers Club with family ties in Costa Rica arranged a meeting for Roman and senior ministry officials there, according to Treadwell.

“We broke the ice with the political folks. They said they’d help,” Treadwell said. “Now, we need to get the technical folks to step in. I hope that’s happening.”

The Red Cross, which had been leading the search, was pulling out of the park Monday, Peggy said. The Tico Times reported Tuesday that officials with the humanitarian organization conducted several ground searches and two fly-overs, but they were unable to find any sign of Cody. The Red Cross was focusing its efforts on the park’s illegal gold mining tunnels.

There are as many as 400 miners in the park at a time, according to the newspaper, and the high number of unregistered park visitors made distinguishing traces of the missing Alaska man hard.

Expanding search efforts require more than manpower. They also require cash. Luckily, competitors in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic Adventure Race, a 250-mile grass-roots footrace held annually since 1982, agreed to donate the participants’ $100 entry fees to the Dials and their search for Cody. They raised about $2,800 Friday before the weekend start of that event.

A fund has also been set up to help continue the search. The Dials are asking that checks be sent to Margaret Dial at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, PO Box 196613, Anchorage, AK, 99519. All checks must include the memo “Cody Roman Dial Donation Account.”

Family friend and APU colleague Paul Twardock is helping spread the word about the account. Twardock, chair of the liberal arts college’s outdoor studies program, said it’s about all friends can do from so far away.

“People really wanted to help, which is hard to do from here,” he said.

Peggy’s already struggled with gaining access to her son’s bank account as a result of his disappearance. Hoping to learn where Cody last withdrew money, she first turned to Treadwell for help after a bank rebuffed her efforts to gain access to her son's account.

She later gained access, but has a warning for other parents.

“It’s important to have two people on an account,” she said. “If they go missing, whether it’s downtown Anchorage or another country, it’s important to be able to see where they last pulled money out of.”