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Missing Delray Beach woman's sister breaks silence about trip, questions what happened to her sister

Posted at 7:33 PM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 20:56:45-04

For the first time, the sister of a Delray Beach woman who disappeared at sea is telling her story.

For more than two weeks, no one has heard from Isabella Hellmann. Her husband claims they were on board his 37-foot catamaran, when the boat hit an unknown object and Isabella went overboard. 

Isabella’s sister, Dayana said she has many questions about what happened to her sister. She said life has been hard to bear the last couple of weeks. She recalled the first time she saw Isabella’s husband, Lewis Bennett, after her sister went missing.

“He was calm, he wasn’t crying or anything. When I saw him I ran to him and I hugged him and I said where is Isabella? And he said I don’t know,” said Dayana.

Dayana said Isabella did not want to leave her 9 month old baby, but wanted to help her husband move a boat from St. Martin to Key West. The boat would later be taken to Australia by Bennett and his business partner, according to Dayana.

“He has a lot of experience. He knows a lot about boats,” said Dayana.

The couple had taken trips like this one before, prior to having their baby, but never just the two of them alone. 

“They were supposed to go from St. Martin to Puerto Rico, from Puerto Rico to Cuba, and from Cuba to Key West,” said Dayana.

Isabella Hellmann’s Facebook page indicates she flew to St. Martin on April 29.

“Her phone broke, probably like four days after they left. I don’t know how or I don’t know why, so we didn’t have contact through her phone everything was through Lewis’ iPad,” said Dayana.

Dayana said the couple had a satellite phone with them but did not activate until hours before Isabella’s disappearance.

Isabella told Dayana she would be back by May 12 to attend Dayana’s graduation on Saturday.

The couple would spend no more than two days at each island to rest and then sail to the next destination.

Dayana recalls Isabella telling her that for five days straight they would not be able to talk.

Then, on either on the 11th or 12th, Dayana received a call from Isabella and said she found it strange that every other time Isabella asked about the baby and asked detailed questions, but not this time.

She just asked if they were getting ready for the graduation.

Dayana still thought Isabella was going to surprise her at the ceremony. But Saturday came and went and no sign of Isabella.

On May 14, Dayana receives a call from a strange number which turned out to be the satellite phone. 

“They connect it that Sunday night,” said Dayana “She called me at 8:25 p.m. and said ‘oh hi, we just connected the phone, it’s been really hard for us to connect it cause his [Bennett’s] friend told me it’s hard,” said Dayana recalling the conversation with Isabella. “She said ‘I’m in the middle of the ocean right now, we left Cuba.’ She didn’t tell me what time but she said we left Cuba and that’s it, she said I’ll see you tomorrow.”

That was the last time Dayana heard her sister’s voice. At around 3 a.m. Monday Dayana said she woke up to several missed calls and voicemails. One was from the satellite phone.

“That was Lewis and said this is an emergency, you need to call the Coast Guard. This is my coordinates,” said Dayana. 

Bennett’s business partner also left a voicemail for Dayana along with the Coast Guard. She was asked to pick Bennett up from Marathon where the Coast Guard took him after rescuing him.

Bennett told the Coast Guard he was asleep in the lower deck when he was woken up to the boat hitting an unknown object.

He said Isabella was last keeping watch but she was nowhere on the boat. He told the Coast Guard the catamaran began taking in water and he had to abandon the boat.

Dayana said in the days after picking up Bennett he did not say much about the boating accident. The uncertainty stirred inside her so she began to ask him questions about what happened.

"Why didn’t you stop the boat and drop the anchor to do something about it? And he said he needed to keep the boat on track, so his priority was to keep the boat on track,” said Dayana. “I asked him, do you think she’s alive? Do you think she’s dead? And he said ‘I think she she’s asleep.’ That was his answer.” 

Dayana said Bennett said the Coast Guard allowed him to retrieve a backpack from the boat.

In it was his iPad, the satellite phone, chargers, his wallet, and documents related to the boat, according to Dayana.

She told him she wanted to continue the search for Isabella.

Last week Bennett left for Cuba to do his own search.

Dayana said he texted her from Cuba telling her he had checked with U.S. Embassy to get local authorities involved and had checked all hospitals looking for Isabella.

On Sunday he returned to pick up the baby and two hours later Dayana said he came back with a Boca Raton police officer demanding the baby’s things.

The Department said Bennett contacted them for a civil assist, to keep the peace between him and the family.

The encounter turned emotional for Dayana and her mother.

"He said move, move I’m leaving and you’re not going to see the baby again and my mom passed out on the floor,” said Dayana.

Dayana said she was told Bennett has left the country with the baby. He has dual citizenship in the UK and Australia. She said her mother is heartbroken by Isabella’s disappearance and now the possibility she may not see her grandchild.

“Why are you taking her, why don’t you at least give us time to heal?” asked Dayana

We’ve tried to reach Bennett at his Delray Beach condo and by email. The FBI has not indicated any foul play in the investigation, but is still investigating the missing person’s case. 

Dayana said her sister was with Bennett for four years. They met online and had a baby together last year. They were married three months ago.