COBB COUNTY, GA (WXIA) -- Two mothers who lost their children during study abroad trips have advice for other parents.

On February 13, North Cobb High School freshman Tomari Jackson died while swimming on a study abroad trip to Belize on February 13.

While his death was ruled accidental, the tragedy is raising questions about safety on study abroad trips.

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"You need to be asking tons of questions," said Ros Thackurdeen, in New York, the mother 19 year old, Ravi Thackurdeen, who went on a study abroad in Costa Rica in 2012.

During the trip, Ravi was swept out to sea in a riptide.

"My son was pulled out. He struggled in the water for 30 minutes before he went under," said Thackurdeen.

In 2011, 20 year-old Minnesota native Thomas Plotkin went to India to study abroad and fell while hiking on a mountain trail after a rain.

"His left boot slipped on rock and he we went down on his back," said Elizabeth Brenner, his mother who lives in Minnesota.. "We never got his body back."

The two mothers, once strangers brought together by unimaginable tragedy, have five questions every parents should ask before even considering a study abroad trip for their children. 

First, how well does the company know the cultural landscape? Generally, it's a third party firm, separate from the school.

"Are these programs doing their due diligence? Are they conducting site visits and going to the regions and really understand the area like the locals would?", said Brenner.

What is the itinerary?

"I didn't know my son was going to be showering in a river. I didn't know this,." Said Thackurdeen.

Is the company insured?

"Are they insured for medivac insurance? Are they insured in case something happens? Is the program insured? My son's program was not insured," said Thackurdeen.

"Will the insurance cover getting the student home whether the student is alive or dead?," said Brenner.

Have they had prior accidents or incidents?

"What prior incidents do you have or did you have on those programs. It doesn't mean you're going to get an answer, ‘cause they don't have to share this with you, but you want to ask that question," said Thackurdeen.

"You want to know the safety record, including near misses. Near misses are often the predictor of future bad outcomes," said Brenner.

Have you read the waivers carefully?

"When it comes to study abroad, they've crafted really tight waivers, even if there' gross negligence, the families become recriminalized because you have to prove there was something wrong," said Thackurdeen.

"Parents, in particular, should be checking their guts. Does this make sense?  Am I feeling red flags about this?" said Brenner.

The mothers suggest parents take all waivers to lawyers to look over before they sign them.

They also say go online and look at local newspaper articles about accidents or other incidents in the area where the child is going.

In the aftermath of Thomas and Ravi's death, both mothers have learned there is no federal agency, credentialing organization, or institution of higher education tasked with counting deaths or injuries during study abroad.

Both women now advocate for transparent and comprehensive safety reporting from the student travel industry.

In April of 2014, The Thomas Plotkin Sunshine Bill (SF 1975) was passed by the state of Minnesota. It is the first state law to require reporting of deaths and injuries during study abroad.

A federal law, The Ravi Thackurdeen Safe Student Study Abroad Act (HR 5485), authorizes the same. It was introduced during the 113th Congress, and will be reintroduced this year.

Funeral arrangements for Jackson have been set:


Feb. 26. 04:00 PM - 08:00 PM

Davis-Struempf Funeral Home

1975 East-West Connector

Austell, GA, US, 30106


FEB 27. 11:00 AM

Davis-Struempf Chapel

1975 East-West Connector

Austell, GA, US, 30106

Jackson will be laid to rest at Cheatham Hill Memorial Park in Marietta.