Florida woman vanishes in Costa Rica, family says

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A Riverview family is searching for answers after Carla Stefaniak, a former Tampa resident, never returned home from a trip to Costa Rica. 

Stefaniak was on a trip to celebrate her birthday with her sister-in-law and friend, April Burton. After the girls' five-day trip, Burton returned to the States on Tuesday, and Carla was scheduled to head back the next day due to previous arrangements. However, when Stefaniak never got off the plane on Wednesday, her family knew something was wrong. 

"Six o'clock, we still haven't heard from her. Even if she was in immigration, she would have made it to the tarmac, she would have service. She would have texted someone, she would have done something. She checked in for the flight but she never got on it," said Burton.

The night before her flight, Stefaniak took an Uber ride around the town and then was dropped off at an AirBNB. There, she Facetimed a friend from New York, telling him she was thirsty and was going to find a drink. 

"[She said,] ‘I'm just going to ask the guards to buy me a bottle of water,’" said Burton. "He said her phone died, and that was the last we heard from her."

Her phone has been almost completely dark since 9 o'clock Tuesday night, except for a brief moment when it came back on just past midnight. The guards at the AirBNB told Stefaniak's family she checked out of her villa at 5:10 a.m., but her family said something doesn't add up.

"Her flight wasn't until 1:30; she's only 20 to 30 minutes from the airport. The story doesn't make sense," explained Burton. 

Authorities in the States and in Costa Rica have been notified, but Stefaniak's family is not wasting any time. Her brother and his friends are now in Costa Rica retracing Stefaniak's steps and searching for answers. 

"How am I? You can't imagine, you can't imagine how am I. Devastated completely," said Carlos Caicedo, Stefaniak's father.

Family and friends have also taken to social media using #FindingCarla, desperately asking everyone to share the news. They hope that one tip will lead to the break they need to bring Stefaniak home safe and sound. 

Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Agency has shared her photo and has also opened an investigation. Burton said both the FBI and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica are also working with local authorities, but she said more needs to be done. 

If you have any information about Stefaniak's whereabouts, you're being asked to contact Burton directly at 305-903-2887. A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help Stefaniak's family in Costa Rica while they search. 

GOFUNDME LINK: https://www.gofundme.com/findingcarla

FACEBOOK LINK TO LINK TO "#FindingCarla": https://www.facebook.com/groups/FindingCarla/