Denver Man, 40, Among Those Confirmed Dead After Sri Lanka Terror Attacks
Dieter Kowalski was on a business trip when his Colombo hotel was hit with a bomb
A Denver man visiting Sri Lanka on a business trip was killed Sunday in the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of at least 290 people in hotels and places of worship across the country, PEOPLE confirms.
Dieter Kowalski, 40, had just arrived at the Cinnamon Grand hotel in the capital city of Colombo when the explosion occurred, one of six that simultaneously rocked three luxury hotels and three churches.
The Wisconsin native was a senior technical operation head at Pearson, and worked as a liaison between engineering and product teams in Sri Lanka, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Pearson CEO John Fallon confirmed Kowalski’s death in an email sent to employees and obtained by PEOPLE, Monday.
“I’m sorry to have to share the awful news that our colleague, Dieter Kowalski, was killed yesterday in the Easter Sunday atrocities in Colombo, Sri Lanka,” Fallon wrote. “Dieter had just arrived at his hotel, where many of our colleagues have stayed over the years, when he was killed in an explosion.”
Fallon said Kowalski was in town for “an action-packed week” to troubleshoot problems with local engineering teams in Sri Lanka.
“He was excited about the chance to meet again in person, some two and a half years after his last trip, with Sri Lankan colleagues who had become good friends,” he wrote. “Our Sri Lankan colleagues were very much looking forward to seeing him, too.”
Fallon continued, “Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was … Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheerleading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace … We mourn Dieter deeply today.”
Kowalski had previously expressed his excitement for the trip on Facebook, writing in a post, Friday, “And the fun begins. Love these work trips. 24 hours of flying. See you soon Sri Lanka!”
Dieter’s brother Derrick Kowalski also confirmed his death, commenting on the Facebook post, “It is with great sadness and deep regret that as Dieter’s brother that I confirm that Dieter was among the victims that passed away in Sri Lanka. As we know that Dieter saw his friends as family, we would like to share our grief over this tragic incident. More information to follow. We have all lost a brother today… RIP Dieter.”
The Cinnamon Grand previously confirmed to NBC News that Kowalski was staying there, and was unaccounted for in the wake of the bombing.
The hotel said in a statement the explosion occurred in its ground floor restaurant, the Taprobane.
Kowalski is one of 39 foreign tourists killed in the attacks, Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism John Amaratunga said, according to the Associated Press. An additional 28 were wounded.
“The government has already offered assistance to all victims, the damaged places of worship as well as the hotels affected by Sunday’s attacks,” Amaratunga said in a statement.
In addition to the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La Hotel and the Kingsbury Hotel were also hit by bombs, as well as St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the St. Sebastian Catholic Church in nearby Negombo, and the Protestant Zion church in the town of Batticaloa.
Two later explosions were reported by authorities at a housing complex in the suburb of Dematagoda, which killed three police officers, and at a hotel in the suburb of Dehiwala, which killed two people, according to the New York Times.
Authorities have so far arrested 24 suspects in the attacks, which they say were carried out by seven suicide bombers, according to NBC News.
The Associated Press reports that an additional explosion went off Monday in a van that had been parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine since Sunday.
Police inspecting the vehicle reportedly found three bombs that detonated as they attempted to defuse them.