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They planned to “ride the end of the world”. They got lost at sea

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CNN

Shortly after his 20th birthday, Isaac Danian disappeared from his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan in early September 2020, leaving behind a note for his younger siblings that warned them “don’t get vaccinated” or “you don’t ‘will not succeed’. heaven.”

His parents, Abigail and John Danian, told CNN their son became paranoid during the pandemic. They say he began to believe that the Covid-19 vaccine was the government’s way of controlling the population and that the Covid test was just as dangerous. Before leaving home, his parents say, their son told them to sell all their belongings and move into a bunker.

Almost a month after his disappearance, on October 4, 2020, Isaac Danian sent an SMS with a photo of him on a boat holding a giant fish he had caught.

The family has not heard from him since.

“He called me to say he was going to be off the grid for about 30 days and he wanted to make sure to call me and let me know. So that I don’t spend those 30 days worrying for him,” his mother told CNN. Isaac did not say where he was going or who he was with.

“He said… it would be better if he didn’t,” Abigail Danian said, “but he always said I wish I could tell you.”

Little did Isaac’s parents know at the time that before their son left, he had started following a so-called online guru named Matthew Mellow, who went by the name Mortekai Eleazar on social media. On his YouTube channel, Mellow has spread misinformation about Covid, delivering sermons on what he says is Satan’s plan to destroy society and false claims about the Covid-19 vaccine, which he called the ” mark of the beast”.

Mellow had uploaded a recruiting video, looking for ‘able-bodied men’ to sail with him from Hawaii in the South Pacific where Covid had not taken hold. In his video, he suggested society was doomed.

Isaac Danian signed up for the trip and left home on Labor Day weekend 2020 while his parents were out of town.

It wasn’t until his parents filed a missing person’s report seven months later that they learned from an investigator with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office in Michigan that their son had been in communication with Mellow.

“This guru clown convinced them to fly to Hawaii and join him on this journey across a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean to find a Covid-free place where they could start over and escape Satan’s grand plan,” said said author and journalist David Wolman, who first investigated the case for The New York Times, told CNN.

The YouTube page of Matthew Mellow, also known as Moretakai Eleazar.

It turns out that Mellow had arranged for two boat captains to take him and his recruits to the South Pacific. Danian and a second man, Shukree Abdul-Rashed, of Rochester, New York, would go in Captain Mike Schmidt’s boat, while Mellow left a few days later in another boat with another captain.

“They had a great time those two, they caught a lot of fish,” Schmidt told CNN. At times, says Schmidt, the weather was rough and the seas dangerous.

“A storm, I had my nose broken on the wheel. The boat was picked up in the middle of the night and broke my nose. So we had some difficulties, but most of the time we sailed, we caught fish, we barbecued, the weather was great.

Schmidt told CNN they headed to the Cook Islands first, but turned out to be closed to entry due to the pandemic. Given the risky weather, he says he turned the boat towards American Samoa, but when they learned they had to take a Covid test to get in, he says, his two passengers panicked and threatened to jump off the boat. ship.

Schmidt says he decided to head about 300 nautical miles to Wallis Island, a French territory between Hawaii and New Zealand. That’s when the trip took a dark turn. After Schmidt alerted authorities to their arrival so they could anchor their boat, he told CNN, Danian and Abdul-Rashed suddenly jumped overboard.

“The reason they jumped is because they don’t want to be on the boat. They want to avoid taking this Covid PCR test. They were afraid to take the Covid test because it was the mark of the beast now they had gotten involved with the guru,” Schmidt said.

As soon as the men jumped, Schmidt told CNN, he alerted Wallis Island authorities for help and flagged down a fishing boat to search. He said Danian’s plan was “to slide into oblivion with Abdul-Rashed and Matt Mellow and ride through the end of the world. The three…no connection to the United States.

According to Wolman, the reporter, “They had been misled by a wannabe Instagram-era prophet guru who talked about the right way and how to attract these two young men.” Wolman called it “the covid conspiracy witches’ brew, end times prophecy, Christian fundamentalism meets stress and turmoil over the 2020 election”.

Isaac Danian left home on Labor Day weekend 2020 while his parents were out of town.

Mellow did not respond to CNN’s numerous requests for comment. CNN has reached out to Abdul-Rashed’s family for comment.

According to a French police report obtained by CNN, Schmidt was questioned and authorities confiscated his 9mm pistol, laptop and Garmin GPS device from the boat. Schmidt was ultimately cleared in the investigation.

“I never did anything to hurt them,” Schmidt told CNN.

At the time, dive teams searched the area for the men, but found nothing.

In addition to the missing person report they filed, Danian’s parents appealed to the State Department and French authorities for assistance. But there have been many challenges along the way.

“The problem is that it’s not just so far away, but it’s international. There is a language barrier. We are dealing with the French judicial system,” John Danian told CNN. “It was on the water, and it was a maritime-type incident, so you have many different agencies and authorities trying to coordinate this effort.”

More than two years later, Abigail and John Danian are no closer to finding their son.

“We hope he is alive because there is no evidence to the contrary,” Abigal Danian told CNN. “It’s possible he wanted out of the network and he’s in a manic state, it’s possible he was kidnapped against his will. It’s possible he drowned. If someone told you that your child is probably dead, would you accept that and move on? That’s not something we can do.

Just last week, the Danians received a letter from the French authorities alerting them that they were officially closing the investigation into his disappearance. The Danians plan to appeal the findings.

“The only determination they could make was that Isaac and Shukree both jumped into the ocean and no remains were found,” Abigail Danian told CNN. In the meantime, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said its missing persons investigation is still open. Isaac’s family says they have also been told by the State Department that some sort of “interagency investigation” is underway, but they don’t know who is involved.

As for Mellow’s whereabouts, Wolman spoke to her several months after the men disappeared. The two met on an island in French Polynesia where Wolman says Mellow lived with his mother.

Isaac and his father, John Danian, in 2018. Speaking about the difficulties in finding his missing son, John Danian said:

“He printed this flyer with…sort of every religious extremism plus covid conspiracy hashtag you can imagine from 666 and the mark of the beast to the Illuminati to George Soros to Bill Gates and the nanobots and it’ is…just like this verbal diarrhea of ​​nonsense,” says Wolman. “He’s passing it on to people in a very poor part of the world telling them or their children not to get vaccinated.”

Did Mellow take responsibility for what happened to Isaac Danian and Shukree Abdul-Rashed?

“He has no sense of responsibility for what happened to them,” Wolman said. “He calls them his brothers, saying they died in the good graces of God.”

Wolman said Mellow told him, “They were my dear friends. I liked them. I fell asleep for months after they left.

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