They set sail together last summer aboard a flashy catamaran. Four people began what was supposed to be a carefree cruise in the spectacular beauty of the South Pacific. In a still-baffling turn of events only one of the passengers would ever be seen again.
The captain and his three passengers — a former NBA star, his girlfriend and his older brother — left the idyllic island of Moorea in late June aboard the yacht. The vessel's passengers were each searching for something.
Former NBA star Bison Dele, who had walked away from a multi-million dollar contract, was looking for himself. His girlfriend, Serena Karlan, had left terror-stunned New York City after Sept. 11 looking for peace and happiness. Miles Dabord was searching for a long lost connection with his younger brother, Dele. Captain Bertrand Saldo had found what he was looking for — a job sailing in the waters he loved.
The Williams Brothers
The story would end in four tragic deaths, but it began as a tale of two brothers — Brian and Kevin Williams. The Williams brothers were both talented young athletes. Kevin was 6', 8" and showed promise as a basketball player, but asthma slowed him down. Brian, at 6',11", began an NBA career with the Orlando Magic in 1991, then bounced from team to team before signing a multi-year free agent contract with the Detroit Pistons for nearly $40 million in 1997. In 1998, Brian changed his name to Bison Dele.
Brian wasn't the typical pro athlete. He was soft-spoken, and in many ways uncertain — despite the material success he had achieved. At one point, he overdosed on sleeping pills, later saying he felt lucky and happy to have cheated death.
He recovered from that bout with depression, but as his career took off again, he abruptly quit in 1999, walking away from his multimillion-dollar contract with the Pistons. "I am not in love with it for the reason the next person is in love with it," Dele told reporters.
Dele earned admiration for his free spirit. "I do have to respect him for the fact that there are very few people who would walk away from … almost $40 million just because they thought it was time for them to just do something else." Dele's last coach, Alvin Gentry, said.
Wanderlust and an Unexpected Visitor
Dele wandered the world, bought a yacht, and named it the Hakuna Matata, Swahili for "No Worries." He convinced his old flame Serena Karlan to leave her life in New York behind and join him on his yacht.
In early May, Dele and Karlan were in Auckland, New Zealand, when Dele's brother, who by then had changed his name to Miles Dabord, arrived unexpectedly.
Porter, Dele's friend and manager, said he thought Dabord was just trying to reconnect with Dele. "I think they did have a lot to say or just to talk about … just as brothers," Porter said.
While in New Zealand, the tension between the brothers was clearly visible. A crewmember's log notes that the brothers almost came to blows. Saldo said Dabord had been aggressive with Dele and that the two brothers appeared to have a bad relationship, according to another captain who had spoken with Saldo.
Several weeks after Dabord arrived, Dele and Karlan decided to fly ahead to Tahiti, where they checked into a luxury resort on the nearby island of Moorea. To the staff working at the resort, the couple appeared very happy and in love.
Captain Saldo and Dabord sailed the Hakuna Matata to Moorea and met up with Dele and Karlan.