Guma Aguiar’s last known journey paralleled his own life, gunning through formidable seas like a little boat caught in a big storm.
On the night he vanished, the wealthy industrialist set off in his 31-foot fishing vessel, barreling northeast at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour, crashing through menacing waves for seven miles before suddenly changing course.
A marine analysis of his GPS, released Thursday, shows that at 7:56 p.m., the boat took an ominous, abrupt turn, and suddenly decelerated to .6 miles per hour. It then traveled at speeds no greater than 3 miles per hour southwest for more than five hours before running aground on the beach in front of Fort Lauderdale’s most famous watering hole, The Elbo Room. Boozy patrons curiously watched the ghostly vessel drifting aimlessly off shore, and a few went down to explore.
Its lights and ignition were on, its throttle was forward, but its engines were still, said Sgt. Steven Novak of Fort Lauderdale police. Aguiar’s wallet, cell phone and flip-flops appeared to be the only thing left of the 35-year-old father of four.
But what his family found most disturbing was the pack of Marlboros on the console. Aguiar rarely went anywhere without them.
“It would have been a better sign if the cigarettes had been gone,” said Aguiar’s mother, Ellen.
The investigation, and the GPS analysis, provided more clues — but still no answers as to what happened to Aguiar, whose fortune is estimated at $100 million. While investigators say they’ve found no sign of foul play, they haven’t ruled out other theories, including that he may have faked his own disappearance to escape his troubled life.
“You ask five different people what they think happened, and you would get five different answers,” said Novak, who has been working the case nearly non-stop since Aguiar vanished.
At the time of his disappearance, his wife, Jamie, was trying to void their prenuptial agreement, and previously had filed a restraining order and threatened to divorce him.
He was also mired in legal battles that had cost him $20 million, was suffering from severe bipolar disorder and his fortune was being swallowed by poor investments and people who often took advantage of his wealth, according to those closest to him.
“With all the evidence, we still are sort of back at the same place. We just don’t know what happened and we don’t know where he is,” Ellen Aguiar said.
The family is worried that Aguiar came unglued, as he had on several previous occasions. He had been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment many times over the years.
“We want to know the events and psychology of whatever it was that led him to go into a storm and drive very quickly, and what the contributing factors were to his state of mind,” his mother said.
A surveillance video shows Aguiar boarding his boat, the T.T. Zion, alone shortly before 7:30. He exited Port Everglades at a quick clip, stirring wakes, and “wave-jumping,” a boat captain who specializes in burials at sea told police.
A small-craft warning had been issued for winds 15 to 20 knots, with thunderstorms and seas up to six feet. Aguiar kept his fishing boat docked behind his Rio Vista waterfront home, next to his 77-foot yacht, the Zion. Aguiar was not an experienced boater and rarely captained his own vessel. He employed a staff captain, but the captain wasn’t working that night, Novak said.