My brother, Donald Brian Nicholas Jr., was a guest at the Intercontinental Hotel in Fiji in July 2011 when he lost his life in a tragic surfing accident.
Don Nicholas Jr. was solicited to go surfing by the hotel’s water excursion company – Reef Safari – on a day when Fiji had experienced some of the largest waves it had seen in almost 50 years. My brother was a casual surfer at best and the Surf Instructor and Boat Captain had no known experience in guiding surfers in such treacherous waters yet they went out anyway. To compound matters, the Reef Safari guides were ill prepared for such an activity – all they had was an inflatable boat, short surf boards, no spotters, and no radio in case they needed help.
The day after I heard the news my brother was missing, I flew to Fiji with my cousin to help with the search and rescue efforts. From the moment we arrived at the InterContinental Hotel we were treated not as people who had potentially just lost a loved one but almost as adversaries. It was clear the hotel management didn’t want us at the resort and certainly didn’t want us asking any questions or doing our best to find my brother. In fact:
- One of the very first things Scott Williams, the hotel’s manager, greeted us with was, “Your brother had health issues, right?”
- Hotel management told all of their staff and everyone involved in the incidence to remain quiet. The surf instructor went so far as to give us a false identity.
- The entire 8 days we were in Fiji, we did not see one news story released on my brother’s disappearance. The local villagers, whom the hotel shares a beach with, were not even made aware of this tragedy until we informed them.
- The management staff refused to let us rent any of the hotel boats that were sitting idle even when we offered to pay the standard $220 FJD per hour.
- The management staff threatened to call security on us and have us removed from the premises if I took snorkel equipment that I rented from their hotel on a local villager’s boat.
- We were refused food unless we paid immediately in cash.
My brothers disappearance at sea that tragic day and him never being rescued or recovered is something that I pray no other family has to ever endure. But, if picking up pig guts in the ocean and praying it is not your loved one wasn’t emotionally devastating enough, what made matters even worse is how the InterContinental Hotels Group put its own reputation and its future tourism income above a human’s life and the suffering of his close family members.
I, my family, Donnie’s friends, and his first child who was born 3 months after his disappearance, will never get over his loss. And, we will never forget how the InterContinental treated us during one of the most difficult of circumstances a family can go through.
Our goal in creating this petition is to tell the CEO, Richard Solomons, that MONEY IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN A HUMAN LIFE. And should a terrible accident such as this happen to another family in the future that they shouldn’t make matters worse by treating them like second class citizens.
Please join me in asking Richard Solomons – the CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group to apologize for how we were treated during our search and rescue efforts at their hotel and to assure us all that this will never happen to another family again.
- Lisa Ross – loving sister of Donald Brian Nicholas, Jr.
Donnie Nicholas went missing while a guest at your hotel in Fiji in July of 2011. He was solicited by the hotel recreation company to surf in the biggest waves Fiji had seen in nearly 50 years even though the surf instructor and boat captain were completely ill-equipped to handle such conditions.
To make matters worse, your hotel, and even one of your direct employee, Scott Williams - General Manager at InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, completely mishandled how Donnie's family was treated during the week after he went missing.
More specifically, when Donnie's brother-in-law spoke with Jason Lee, Head of Guest Relations, in the days after the incident to express his concern for how his wife and cousin were being treated, Jason said he was "appalled and utterly embarrassed" and assured him he would make things right. BUT, after the initial conversation Jason avoided any type of follow up with the family - completely ignoring several phone calls and emails.
When a human life - and one that went missing while a guest at your Fiji property - is lost this type of behavior is unacceptable.
I ask you to formally apologize to the family for making a tragic situation far worse by treating them like 2nd class citizens - all in the interest of protecting your tourism profits - and assure us all that this will never happen to another family again.