In a sad bit of irony, a 43-year-old British schoolteacher and adventurer was killed on a solo kayaking trip through the Amazon days after posting a Facebook status about her being killed if she continued to paddle on.
Emma Kelty’s comment on Sept. 10 is being described as a joke by some, but it expressed a real fear, a warning she had apparently been given about a stretch of river known as the most lawless of the Amazon, a place run by pirates and drug runners.
The warning she would be killed and robbed near Coari wasn’t enough to deter her from continuing on, however. An adventurer at heart, Kelty had already completed a solo trek to the South Pole on Jan. 17.
Kelty began this last adventure—a kayak trip from the Amazon river’s source in the Andes to the sea, where it finishes—in mid-June.
She was well aware of the dangers involved. She wrote on her website during her preparation stage that her trip would have four parts: climbing to the source of the river, kayaking down white water rapids for 1000 miles, and then “getting through the notorious drug baron and organ harvesting folks.”
Stage four was to be the 3000-mile sea kayak paddle to the ocean.
Rocky Contos, a director of SierraRios, the non-profit river conservation group that operated the guide service Kelty used for stage two, wrote on Facebook that Kelty had joined them for the first stretch of her journey until she reached the end of the whitewater in the Andes.
She died 44 days after leaving the guiding group, said Contos.
“Emma was a woman with a dream for adventure and the boldness to embark on journeys that few in our world would ever muster the courage for […] My heartfelt condolences go out to her family and friends,” he wrote.
After Kelty’s foreboding Facebook prediction, she seemed to have gotten past the worst stretch of the river, posting two days later that she made it by and all was well.
But exactly two hours later, trouble seemed to appear again. Kelty rounded a corner and encountered motorboats filled with 30 men holding bows and rifles and a town that was eerily quiet.
Her last post was an upbeat one, seeming to speak to the troubled area she had just passed and on to better waters.
Unfortunately, according to local authorities, the water’s ahead are some of the most lawless in Brazil. The very next day, Kelty activated a distress signal and has not been seen or heard from since.
Kelty is believed to have pitched her tent on Boieiro island, across the river from Lauro Sodré, according to the Guardian.
A 17-year-0ld suspect told police a group stole her belongings and shot her twice with a sawn-off shotgun before dumping her body in the river. Local residents said they’d seen Kelty alive, paddling down the river in her canoe, according to the Guardian, who said fire officers and the Brazillian Navy are still searching for her body.
Police have arrested three men in connection to the murder and are looking for four other suspects.
Friends and family are raising funds for three causes in Kelty’s name.