Fallen Soldier

By now, everyone knows about the loss of Air France Flight 447 on June 7th. Two hundred-twenty eight passengers were lost in the crash -- the most tragic loss in the history of commercial aviation. What you may not know is that there was a surfer on board: Dr. Jose "Rommel" Souza, a {{{Rio}}}-born orthodontist who had since moved to London to practice. Passing along with him and the other passengers was his girlfriend Isis Pinet.

From the beaches of Rio, Cornwall and Hossegor to the heavy reefs of Hawaii, Fiji and Indonesia, Rommel traveled the world to surf. Weekend trips to Mundaka, Madeira and Lanzarote were the norm rather than the exception, if the surf was good Rommel would go. As he used to say, as long as he caught just one wave, any trip was worth it.

We got a hold of Dr. Souza's good friend and travel partner Richard Gaunt to learn more about this lifelong surfer and the ongoing saga of Flight 447.

SURFING: How did you come to know Dr. Souza?

RICHARD GAUNT: The first time I met him was on a random surf trip to Cornwall one January: Howling onshore winds, rubbish surf, freezing water, 5mm with hood, gloves and boots. Over a beer that night he said he was off to Lanzarote the following month and asked if I wanted in on the mission. Off we went. The first proper surf we had was on a Thursday afternoon when we went out with 5 others to surf double overhead perfect Morro Negro. After a drunken lunch in celebration he then paddled out on this own to surf cranking El Quamo. It's been a pleasure to surf with him ever since. He was always the one who made you feel a bit safer in the water -- his presence was a comfort. He would always shout you into a wave and it is always easier to make friends in a new line-up when he was with you.

Could you give us the latest on the recovery efforts of Flight 447?

They still have not found the majority of the bodies. The search area is a whopping 700 miles -- which is mind blowing. The plane flew into a huge storm system formed by the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) and that was the last communication ground control had. Despite the French sending a submarine to the area, they still have not found the Black Box. Seems to have been a combination of technical failures all going wrong exceptionally quickly. They have only found 44 bodies so far, which is pretty terrible.

A good link to follow for additional information is on the BBC's website.