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Mary-Anne Goossens was found by three hikers near the source of the river, weak but conscious. She was due to be discharged from hospital on Thursday
07.07.11 - 16:47 -
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Dutch tourist found safe and well after 18 days trapped near the river Chíllar
Mary-Anne Goossens is led from the helicopter to the ambulance
This week has seen one of those rare miracles that can only be put down to good fortune or fate. Dutch tourist Mary-Anne Goossens has spent 18 days stuck between waterfalls at the source of the River Chíllar in Nerja, in a hollow that turned into a dead end. She had made herself a bed and filled her clothes with grass to protect herself from the cold. She survived on river water.
On Tuesday evening she was found by three hikers who were walking across the upper part of the river, some 200 metres from the source, an area of stunning natural beauty but extremely difficult to get to.
Mary-Anne arrived in Malaga for a holiday on June 16th. She had booked a room in Nerja’s Bajamar hotel for a week, but she only spent one night there. On June 23rd her disappearance was reported by relatives, as reported in SUR in English two weeks ago. Searches were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile Mary-Anne had been sleeping in the open, with no food, drinking only water from the river. She was found some 20 kilometres as the crow flies from Nerja, a 12 hour walk from where she set out on the River Chíllar walking route. “She told us that she had wanted to reach Frigiliana, but she got lost and couldn’t find her way back”, said family spokesperson Antonio_Díaz on Wednesday.
“Getting there is hell”, summed up one of the members of the rescue team, headed by specialists from the Guardia Civil Mountain_Rescue Unit, EREIM. She was eventually helped out of her hole by three officers. She was undernourished, dizzy and sunburnt but conscious. And alive.
“She told us that she had wanted to see the river, but got to the point when she found herself stuck between two waterfalls, unable to go up or down”, explained one of the specialists, who highlighted the strength of the 48 year old tourist who works as a librarian in her home town of Stramproy in the Netherlands. While she was stuck in her hollow she shouted for help and blew a whistle in the hope that someone might pass by. At around eight o’clock on Tuesday evening her cries were finally heard by three young hikers who called the emergency services as soon as they had a signal on their mobile telephones.
Incredible luck
Those familiar with the area where she was trapped find it hard to believe that she survived so long without food. “All the searches had focussed on the area below the Chíllar dam, the area most visited by walkers, as from there on the river gets narrower and is very difficult to follow”, explained a Civil Protection volunteer who took part in the rescue operation, which also involved local police officers from Frigiliana and Nerja as well as members of the fire brigade and the Guardia Civil.
The hikers who found Mary-Anne on Tuesday evening gave her a sleeping bag and a thermal blanket, as well as some food. In this area there is no signal for mobile telephones, and so the three young men set off down the river towards the area known as Cortijo del Imán.
From there they tried to call but were unsuccessful. As by that time it was getting dark the hikers decided to spend the night there. The successful emergency call came at 7.30 a.m. and the rescue operation began.
After the Guardia Civil helicopter located the hollow where Mary-Anne was trapped officers set about finding the best way to reach her. Armed with a stretcher and other equipment it took them some 25 minutes to get down to where she had spent the last 18 days. She was finally helped out of her natural prison with the help of ropes and evacuated by the helicopter. She told her rescuers that after finding herself trapped and unable to continue up or down the river, she stayed where she was in the hope that she would be found.
The helicopter landed in the car park at the El Ingenio shopping centre where an ambulance was waiting to rush her to the Axarquía hospital. There she was given food, and an initial medical inspection confirmed that she was suffering no more than sunburn and minor cuts and bruises.
The hospital reported on Thursday that following tests to confirm that her liver and kidneys were functioning properly she was to be discharged later that day. She was visited on Thursday morning by the Dutch ambassador to Spain, Peter P. Van Wulfften Palthe, who also highlighted her magnificent state of health. “It’s a miracle that she has been found alive and in such good health”, he stated, adding that it was unlikely that she would be able to fly back to Holland immediately but would be advised to spend a few more days in Malaga to get her strength back.
The three friends who came across Mary-Anne on Tuesday evening say they very nearly didn’t go that far
J. Cano / E. Cabezas
Brothers Pedro and Francisco Conde Morales (27 and 24) and their friend Daniel Sánchez Jiménez (24) explain how they heard a whistle and a faint voice shouting “Help me, help me”.
It was either fate or sheer good luck that led the three Malaga university students to Mary-Anne Goossens. They had very nearly cancelled their trip as a fourth friend was unable to join them and then almost decided to turn back just before they reached the spot where the tourist was trapped.
“We spoke to her in English for a while and gave her a blanket and sleeping bag for the cold”, explained Daniel, adding that they gave her some energy bars and a chorizo sandwich before going for help.

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