Widow of Utah man drowned at Puerto Rico beach returns there to raise awareness

Dec 20, 2023, 10:36 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2023, 7:37 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Annette Kerbs is about to go back to the place where her husband died just two months ago. She’s on a mission to raise awareness about the dangers of Playa Escondida Beach in Puerto Rico.

Her husband, Ben Kerbs, tragically lost his life in October after becoming caught in a powerful whirlpool while swimming. Annette Kerbs said her husband lived in the moment.

“Every adventure there is, he would do it,” she said.

Ben Kerbs’s larger-than-life personality left a lasting impact on those who knew him, including his best friend, Jake Thomas, who met him eight years ago playing pickleball.

“It was a tremendous influence in my life,” Thomas said, reflecting on the profound effect Kerbs had on him. The loss has been painful for Thomas, who speaks of his friend with deep admiration.

“He was just large. He did everything to the fullest. He was my best friend.”

The tragic incident unfolded in October when the Kerbs family was swimming off the shores of Playa Escondida. Annette Kerbs knew the waters were rough when her son, 7, began screaming for help as the undercurrent pulled him.

Ben Kerbs, who had ventured farther out, was seen struggling, and despite his wife’s desperate attempts, the conditions proved too perilous for a rescue.

Annette Kerbs has since heard of other tragedies at the same beach, including one earlier this month. And now she’s taking action. With a determination to prevent further loss of life, she reached out to a lifeguard from the beach and is planning to return next month.

Armed with warning signs, including a cross adorned with Ben Kerbs’s pictures, Annette Kerbs hopes to alert visitors to the inherent dangers of the beach. For her, the trip is about honoring Ben’s memory and potentially saving lives.

“If Ben could save one person and his life was sacrificed, he would do that,” she said. Thomas agrees.

“He wasn’t a guy to sit around and ask questions like, ‘Should I do that?’ — he just did it,” he said.

As Annette Kerbs prepares to walk the shores of Playa Escondida, even in the face of her deep personal loss, she hopes to turn this painful chapter into a mission for awareness.

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Widow of Utah man drowned at Puerto Rico beach returns there to raise awareness