Forest Hills man, 20, vanishes off coast of South Pacific island

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County mom is desperate for answers after her son disappeared from a sailboat off the coast of an island in the South Pacific.

“We want to bring awareness to this story so we can get resources and action,” said Abi Danian of Forest Hills, who’s hoping to put pressure on federal authorities. “There are so many things that need to be investigated, and we don’t know where to start.”

Calvin Isaac Danian, 20, took off suddenly for Hawaii in September 2020.

He’d been living with his parents in Forest Hills, but they were out of town when he left.

“We got a phone call from him just saying he had a great opportunity in Hawaii, and he would need to leave right away. He asked us if we would buy his car from him, so he’d have some funds for the trip,” Abi Danian recalled, noting that she and her husband had refused.

“We said, ‘What’s going on? What are you doing?’ He said he would tell us if he could, but he couldn’t tell us. Obviously, we didn’t support this decision.”  

Calvin Danian called his mom 24 hours later to let her know he’d landed safely in Hawaii.

Then on Oct. 4, 2020, he called to say he’d be off the grid for 30 days.

An undated courtesy photo of Calvin Danian.

“He wanted me to know because he didn’t want me to worry,” remembered his mom. “I wish at the time I would have said, ‘What do I do if you don’t contact me in 30 days?’ He still wouldn’t tell us what he was doing.”

That was the last time Abi Danian spoke to her son.

When he didn’t call to wish his little sister a happy birthday in February, the family knew something was wrong.

“We started getting really worried because there’s no way he would miss calling her on her birthday … He loved his sister and brother. They were everything to him.”

Calvin Danian’s brother and sister. (June 2021)

That’s when the Danians filed a missing persons report with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and began contacting police in Hawaii.

They also created a “Find Calvin Isaac Danian” page on Facebook and reached out to Congressman Peter Meijer’s office, among others, for assistance.

Meijer’s office confirmed to News 8 that the congressman is “actively engaged with the situation and will continue to help in any way he can.”

Then in late May, French police contacted the Danians after tracking them down through their Facebook page.

French investigators told the family a sailboat captain had reported Calvin Danian and another man jumped overboard on Nov. 27, 2020 — and likely drowned — off the southern coast of Wallis Island, a French territory between American Samoa and Fiji.

“For some reason, they were all sailing in the South Pacific. We still don’t know why,” Calvin Danian’s mom said.

A missing person poster for Calvin Danian.

According to French police, the captain said the pair had jumped because they feared getting tested for COVID-19 when they docked on the island.

Abi Danian said she later learned the area where they allegedly went into the ocean was a narrow channel, and the captain claimed he was unable to turn the boat around to try to retrieve them.

However, Abi Danian said it’s her understanding that the shore was 100 to 200 hundred yards away, and she described her son as a strong swimmer.

The Danians knew their son was afraid of the COVID-19 vaccine, but they had no idea his apprehension included testing as well.

“(Calvin) had developed an obsession with… this religion — not in the traditional sense — but like Old Testament. He was convinced that the (COVID-19) vaccine was the mark of the beast and if you took it, you would be eternally damned to hell, I think,” explained his mom.

Last summer, symptoms of mental health challenges the 20-year-old had long experienced worsened considerably.  

MOM: ‘HE BECAME CONVINCED THAT THE WORLD WAS COMING TO AN END’

“He became convinced that the world was coming to an end because of the coronavirus, the election, all the protests going on in the world, just everything together caused the manifestation of some mental disorders,” explained Abi Danian, who said her son had become paranoid and perhaps delusional.

“He found religion, but not traditional religion. More like fundamentalist old testament. He was very focused on that. Not mixing linen and wool together on his body. Not eating pork anymore, or any combination of different animals. Just very strange. Not something that we’ve ever really been taught.”  

Abi Danian’s son, whom she described as kind, big-hearted and charismatic, had struggled with mental health issues since he was a boy.

They tried putting him in different types of schools, had him assessed by doctors and started him in therapy at a very young age, but nothing seemed to alleviate his struggles.

“Anxiety, depression, just a low self-worth,” his mom explained.  

Additionally, she said he often latched on to a subject and researched it extensively, even to the point of obsession.

Last summer, it was astrology and then, religious fundamentalism.

Abi Danian wonders if her son connected with someone online who took advantage of his vulnerabilities, convincing him to come to Hawaii and later, sail the South Pacific.

“What if he’s on an island just waiting for us to come rescue him? How can you just leave somebody there like that?” Abi Danian questioned.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department, which took the initial missing persons report from the family, is working with multiple police jurisdictions to try to get answers for the family.

“There’s a whole bunch of moving parts in this case,” said Kent County Detective Joey Saladino in an interview via Zoom with News 8.

Saladino is limited in what details he can share but says the inquiry is currently considered a missing persons case.

“We are working this at every angle that we can. I know I am, and I know a lot of other jurisdictions are doing everything in their power that they can to hopefully find Calvin.”

Saladino urged anyone with information on Calvin Danian’s disappearance, regardless how minor they think it is, to call his desk at 616.632.6128.

The U.S. Department of State also confirmed to News 8 that it’s “aware of reports of a U.S. citizen missing off the coast of Wallis Island.”

“When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can. The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. citizens in need and to their families,” wrote a Department of State spokesperson in an email to News 8.

The Danians are holding a vigil for Calvin on June 23 at 7 p.m. in Townsend Park in northeastern Kent County. The public is invited to attend.

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