Missing in Houston: Polish sailor Piotr Piela vanishes from ship in Galveston Bay

It has been nearly 15 years since Piotr disappeared without a trace (Courtesy Piela family)

Born in 1980 in Zgorzelec, Poland, Piotr Piela’s childhood dream of becoming a sailor was evident from an early age. With a determination that grew over the years, Piotr pursued his passion relentlessly, eventually earning a spot at the prestigious Maritime University in Szczecin.

Despite his success, Piotr’s longing for home was palpable during his time at sea. Fond memories of family and hometown drew him back whenever possible, yet his adventures on the open water became his sanctuary. However, it was his mysterious disappearance from the ship BBC Ecuador in the port of the Galveston Bay, on August 14, 2008, that left his loved ones grappling for answers.

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Jumping overboard with only 70 meters separating him from shore, Piotr vanished without a trace, leaving behind a perplexing void. Despite initial suspicions of suicide, those who knew Piotr strongly deny such claims, emphasizing his zest for life and unwavering spirit.

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“The detective who investigated the case right after Piotr jumped out of the ship thought it was suicide. But Peter had no such thoughts. He asked for permission to disembark and was denied permission. He jumped out of the ship and was 70 meters from the shore,” Piotr’s mother Asia Piela explained. “He swam perfectly.”

For Piotr’s devoted mother and family, the passage of time has done little to ease the ache of his absence. Despite endless prayers and tireless efforts, nearly 15 years later, they still hold on to hope.

“Not a day goes by without crying. I miss you a lot. I pray for him and I don’t even know if he’s alive. He didn’t have a girlfriend in Poland. Maybe if he is alive, he started a family there because he really wanted to. This is very difficult for me, Peter is my firstborn son, my love,” Asia said. “Children are for the world, not for us parents, but we parents want to know if they are good or help them when they are bad. Piotr is like a soap bubble - he is there and he is not there. It’s very difficult to live with.”

Desperate for closure, Piotr’s mother has journeyed to America twice in search of any leads, yet the mystery remains unsolved. Each passing day only serves to deepen the yearning for Piotr’s return, a sentiment echoed by his family who refuse to let his memory fade.

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“When asked how it affected our family, I closed myself off. I’m waiting. My husband is waiting. My sisters, my parents - they are waiting,” Asia explained. “My second son, Paweł, no longer believes that he will meet his brother. He experienced it very much. We are all waiting and no one forgets about Piotrek even for a moment.”

Piotr has a scar after an operation on his chest, as well as a tattoo. He started the tattoo removal process however he never completed it. Piotr’s first tooth was missing, and he was trying to get it replaced, but his last voyage caused a delay.

What Piotr could look like now (Courtesy Piela family)
What Piotr could look like now (Courtesy Piela family)

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Port of Galveston Police Department at 409-766-6169.

Missing in Houston is a weekly column highlighting people missing from the Houston area. If your loved one is missing email hgalvan@kprc.com.

About the Author

Holly joined the KPRC 2 digital team in March 2024, leveraging her eight years of expertise in blogging and digital content to share her passion for Houston. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the city's vibrant scenes, all while balancing her roles as a wife and mother to two toddlers.

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