Grieving couple call for regulations

A COUPLE whose adventurer daughter died white water rafting in Peru have called for greater regulations governing British travellers abroad.Barbara and Michael Wilson opened their hearts for the first time in a heart-rending book describing how they coped with the tragic death of their daughter Sarah, 36.

A COUPLE whose adventurer daughter died white water rafting in Peru have called for greater regulations governing British travellers abroad.

Barbara and Michael Wilson opened their hearts for the first time in a heart-rending book describing how they coped with the tragic death of their daughter Sarah, 36.

The couple, from Flempton, near Bury St Edmunds, hope the account, First Year, Worst Year, will help bereaved parents as well as prompt improvements in regulations governing the safety of visitors abroad.

Their daughter was just days into a six-month holiday in Peru in May 2000 when she took part in a "highly dangerous" rafting trip.


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Minutes into the expedition on the majestic Cotahuasi river, the raft was upended throwing Sarah and four fellow rafters into the rapids.

While her companions were rescued, a search for Sarah took place - eventually lasting months, covering both air and land with financial rewards offered for information - failed to find her body.

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Mrs Wilson said: "The first time we visited Peru was just a week after she died. We went to the British Embassy and the Consulate and were told we couldn't get to the site where she died because it was too remote.

"It finally took six days with five men, three donkeys, two mules and a horse to take me and my husband there.

"We try and take some comfort in the fact that she was in this beautiful valley, it is the most beautiful place with all these Inca ruins.

"It was incredibly remote and in many ways, it was wonderful but I wish I had never had to see it. We only got to see this amazing place because of the horror of Sarah's death."

Mrs Wilson, a world renowned clinical neuropsychologist who received an OBE some years ago, said she was due to visit her daughter in the South American country just a week after the horrific accident as a birthday present to Sarah, who was a mountain biking journalist.

The mother-of-three also questioned the role of the Foreign Office and said more should be done to help families who have lost loved ones abroad.

She said: "We now feel very strongly that dangerous sports like white water rafting should be more regulated and there should generally be more regulations when people go abroad.

"Also when someone dies abroad, there are so many legal and economic implications. You don't know where to go or what to do. All we got was one phone call from Peru and then we were completely on our own."

The couple hope their frank account of the 12 months following their daughter's death, which starts with the unimaginable phone call telling them their daughter had died, will help other families cope with similar grief.

"The first year was obviously the worst. Although there has been a gradual easing of the pain, Sarah is always with us," Mrs Wilson said.

"I couldn't do anything for the first few months. If I tried to do any committee work or anything, I would just sit there sobbing all the time. It took me a year to get to anything like a normal working pattern.

"We wanted to write the book as a memorial for Sarah and I think she would have approved. After she died, I was desperate to read things about bereavement especially for parents.

"There was nothing like this diary out there, especially as we are atheists - it was usually from the religious point of view.

"We could never have a funeral because her body was not found. This was hard at the beginning but the worst thing was that we didn't have her."

The couple are urging people to buy First Year, Worst Year from www.amazon.co.uk, which has pledged to make a donation to The Compassionate Friends, a support charity for families who have lost a child, for every copy of the book sold.

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