As I’ve mentioned before, several times, I have a morbid fascination with the things that go wrong –and I mean, really wrong –while traveling. On a practical level, I think it’s good to be aware of risks and hazards, even though I firmly believe that these are NOT reasons to stay at home. Bad things can happen in your living room too. (And while I’m on the topic of your living room, let’s never forget that major incidents almost always affect the people who live in the areas far more than tourists and travelers.)
So, with all that said, on an adhoc basis, I’ve decided to start compiling news of trips that have gone wrong. No limits geographically, the world is my (tainted) oyster. And most of what I’ll compile will be contemporary, but there will be a few historic travel catastrophes thrown in here and there.
Would You Know How to Start a Bonfire?
Big headlines from the Costa Rican earthquake on January 8th, 2009. Early estimates have put the death toll at as many as 14, almost certain to rise. A magnitude 6.1, according to the USGS centered north of the city of San Jose. Landslides blocked roads, access to two mountain towns, and buried ten people at La Paz waterfall, according to the BBC. (La Paz Waterfall Gardens’ website says no one was killed there, and the worst injury suffered on the waterfall grounds was a broken ankle.) Tourists spent the night in landslide-overturned buses, lit bonfires, and awaited rescue, says Reuters.Costa Rica is generally considered a safe country to travel, the State Department advises caution for treacherous currents and riptides, and traffic accidents)
Reading Signs = Good
On the other side of a planet, two Australian men were crushed to death by tons of ice calving from the Fox Glacier, an easily accesible and popular tourist destination on the South Island of New Zealand. Al Jazeera reports that the men had ignored safety barriers and stood under hanging ice, which then collapsed on them. New Zealand is generally considered very safe, although adrenaline junkies manage to make it more dangerous.
Don’t Always Trust Your Outfitter…
British tourist David Mather, 28, was killed when he slipped from his paragliding harness in Salta, Argentina. It was his first flight, and so Mather was flying tandem with an instructor. It became apparent to onlookers on the ground (which included Mather’s brother) and the men in the air that something was wrong. The instructor tried to catch Mather as he slipped, but he fell 230 feet to his death, reportedly crashing through palm trees and landing on a mini-golf course. News reports say the family is considering suing the outfitter.
…Or Your Hospital
Americans frequently worry about getting sick overseas, but it’s no picnic getting sick here either. The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners is deciding whether to investigate the death of Terence Brace, a 63 year old British tourist who received a gallbladder operation in a Las Vegas hospital, and after one month was shipped home “beyond salvage”, his friends say, where he died. A British coroner’s inquest already ruled that Brace was “unlawfully killed”.
History on Thin Ice
A frozen lake harbors many dangers, and Adirondack history is rife with stories of travelers who thought the ice was thicker than it actually was. Compiled here by the excellent read Adirondack Almanack are mamy stories of travelers that went through the ice dating back to the late 1800s. These stories mostly end very badly, but an ice fishing story has a happier ending. “In February 1972, five people from Swanton, Vermont, Francis King and his nine year old son Joseph, George Curtis and his fifteen year old daughter Penny, and nineteen year old Stephen Siso became lost in a snowstorm while ice fishing on Champlain. They managed to find their way to a small island and found an old camp where they huddled together all night before being found the next day.”