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4 Americans among 5 killed in Costa Rica rafting accident

Last Updated Oct 22, 2018 8:46 PM EDT

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Four American tourists and a Costa Rican guide were killed in a weekend rafting accident in this Central American country, authorities said Sunday. Three rafts flipped on the Naranjo River Saturday around 3 p.m. and the five victims were carried away downstream, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. Other passengers managed to cling to the rafts and some were rescued by another guide in a kayak.

The organization identified those who died as Ernesto Sierra, Jorge Caso, Sergio Lorenzo and Andres Dennis. It did not list hometowns for them. The local guide was Kevin Thompson Reid.

In all, there were 14 tourists and five guides on the rafts.

Authorities said the river was swollen by rains, and the National Emergency Commission maintained an alert in the area due to the possibility of flooding.

The Americans had arrived in Costa Rica Oct. 18 and had been renting a house in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, according to the government.

The Red Cross said via Facebook the rafts overturned near Liverpool de Quepos.

Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado expressed his dismay about the accident on Twitter.

Police investigating the incident are focusing on the tour company that took the Americans on the rafting trip, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

The four Americans, all from the Miami area, were part of a group visiting Costa Rica for a friend's bachelor party.

The accident is the latest to underscore concerns over safety and regulation of adventure activities in the popular tourist destination, Van Cleave notes.

White-water rafting is one of Costa Rica's most popular attractions. The country draws more than two million visitors annually, the majority of them American.

But some of the county's travel-related acitivities have also been subject to recent scrutiny.

Earlier this year, a Costa Rican charter plane crashed on New Year's Eve, killing 10 Americans. The airline was temporarily grounded.

And in 2016, officials spent months investigating the sinking of a powerboat carrying more than 100 people off the Costa Rican shoreline. Three people died, including one American.

Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's Travel Guide, says Costa Rica is generally a safe destination, but visitors should do their homework.

"There are going to be certain companies that hire experienced guides and others that cut corners," she says. "Talk to the company you're going to be traveling with, ask them is the guide licensed, what is their experience level, what happens if something goes wrong."