Couples trip of a lifetime turns into holiday from hell after coach crashes into side of volcano leaving them with £16,000 medical bills
A couple suffered the holiday from hell after their coach trip crashed into a volcano leaving them with £16,000 MEDICAL BILLS.
Paulina Guevara, 26, and Xavier Boyle, 25, spent £4,000 on a trip of a lifetime to Ecuador to visit Paulina’s family when tragedy happened.
Only 13 days into their holiday, they visited the 1,124-metre high Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands when their coach’s brakes failed.
The ‘chiva’ – a basic bus with no windows or doors – veered into the side of the volcano, forcing Xavier, from Newark, Notts, off the bus and trapped him beneath it.
Xavier suffered a badly broken arm and dislocated elbow and Paulina suffered broken bones as she was flung towards the front.
They were flown to a private hospital on the mainland, as a local hospital would have amputated his arm, and they were left with a whopping £16,000 bill.
Xavier said: “It was the stuff of nightmares – when I was trapped under the bus I thought I was a goner.
“I said goodbye to Paulina as I thought I wasn’t going to get out from under the bus.
“I couldn’t feel or move my legs at first and just thought I wouldn’t be able to walk again.
“It sounds stupid to say but we were lucky we hit the mountain.
“If we had veered the other way we’d have fallen down a steep precipice and we’d have had no chance.”
Xavier and Paulina had saved up for three years to pay for the three-month-long £4,000 holiday as she had not returned home to Ecuador since arriving in the UK 12 years ago.
They made the 14 hour journey with Xavier’s mum, Teresa Houston, and brother, Dominic, on September 13 and weren’t due back until December.
On September 27, they made the trip to Sierra Negra through the Coral Blanco hotel, where they were staying, and were making their descent when tragedy struck.
After being pinned between the bus and the ground, Xavier had to wait until all the other passengers had got off before using his good arm to dig himself out.
Their tour guide was unable to call emergency services as his phone was out of charge so someone was sent on foot to the nearest town for help, but it was miles away.
A tourist who had heard the accident reported on the radio drove to the scene in a pick-up truck and took the injured to the island’s clinic where Xavier’s arms was put in a makeshift splint.
After 24 hours the group was flown to the only hospital on the islands.
Xavier said: “They had an A&E and it was more of a hospital but it was still poorly equipped, very dirty and basic.
“Finally after battling with the local authorities for two days, we managed to get off the islands to the mainland.
“We were eventually taken in a cargo plane to a private hospital on the mainland.
“We knew the hospital would be expensive but it was either that or have my arm amputated.
“We didn’t have any insurance but it was a no-brainer – we had to do it.”
Xavier suffered a broken collar bone, shoulder blade and arm and also dislocated his elbow.
Paulina also suffered a broken collar bone and nose, while Dominic lost two teeth and all the skin on one of his hands.
Xavier was told he should return to the UK for treatment on his arm as soon as possible, but said he was told he couldn’t leave the hospital until he paid his medical fees of around US $25,000 (about £16,000) in cash.
Paulina, Xavier and his family say they gave the hospital everything they could, but it took five weeks to raise the total and they say they were effectively imprisoned.
Xavier’s dad transferred the remaining money over to Paulina’s aunt, Elena Mendez.
The couple finally returned to the UK on October 26, but have been told they will have to return to the Galapagos Islands to try and recover their medical costs through their legal system.
Xavier said: “That’s completely out of the question.
“After our experience she doesn’t want to go back to Ecuador – her home.
“We were told before we left that the department of tourism would help us out.
“But we haven’t had any reply since we got back to this country – we’re stuck.”
A statement from the Department of Tourism in Ecuador said: “On September 26 the unfortunate accident happened where the coach suffered a mechanical failure causing it to overturn, meaning the tourists travelling were injured.
“They were immediately rescued and taken to a local hospital.
“However, the severity of Xavier and Paulina’s injuries meant they were sent immediately by helicopter to the Hospital Oskar Jandl in San Cristobal on the mainland.
“The next day, they were transferred to Guayaquil.
“The Ministry has been in constant communication with the injured tourists and the British Embassy in Quito.
“Within the framework of its powers and jurisdiction, the Ministry has proceeded to suspend the Tourist Operator Sierra Negra Expeditions and Ecotourism in Isabela.
“Suspension continues until the present date and Travel Agency Cabomartur in Santa Cruz was fined $ 5,000 more than the regulations.
“As Ministry of Tourism we have acted with the full force of the law against these two tourist establishments.
“On the other hand, the Ministry of Tourism has at no time told the tourists they will receive any financial compensation, since it is not within our competence.”