A tourist missing for 19 days while on a walking holiday in southern Spain has been found alive at the bottom of a ravine in what rescuers described as “a true miracle.”
Mary-Anne Goossens, a 48-year-old Dutch mother of two, was discovered by climbers early Wednesday nearly 3 weeks after she set off on a hike alone during a holiday to Andalusia.
She survived without food or shelter in a ravine near the source of the Chillar river by drinking water from its banks.
Describing herself as “weak and hungry,” she amazed rescuers by walking from the helicopter into the emergency unit of the nearby Comarcal de la Axarquia. The hospital said that all her vital signs were normal but they would keep her in overnight for observation.
The family of the woman, a librarian from the village of Stramproy in the south of the Netherlands, were searching for her in the area around Nerja, a popular coastal resort, after they failed to hear from her during the 10-day holiday.
They managed to trace her last known movements on the morning of June 17 to the village of Frigiliana, a well-known setting-off point for excursions into the Sierra Almijara Natural Park.
Details of the 19 days for which Mrs. Goossens was missing are still sketchy but Niek Jochemus, a family friend, said she had become lost in the mountains after straying off the path.
“We don’t have all the details yet, but it seems that she got lost after spending a day hiking in a beautiful natural area. It got dark very quickly, and she kept walking and walking hoping to find a village,” Mr. Jochemus said.
“She spent a couple of days walking and then became so weak she couldn’t walk any more and decided it was best to stay near water and hope that someone would find her soon,” he continued.
He described the moment that a call came through from Spain confirming Mrs. Goossens had been found alive:
“I was here at the house with the family when she came on the line and said she was okay, and it was the most amazing moment. There were goose bumps all over the place, and we ran into the garden and jumped around whooping with joy.”
He added, “We’re very curious to find out exactly what happened out there.”
He said it had been a hard 2 weeks not knowing what had happened to her.
“Obviously we went through various options, that she may have fallen down a cliff and was injured or that she could have been taken by someone with bad intentions. We even considered that she had just disappeared of her own volition to start a new life somewhere but dismissed that as impossible.
“As the days wore on, it became harder and harder to believe in a happy ending but we never gave up hope, and the news that she has been found alive and well is just incredible,” Mr. Jochemus said.
Her ex-husband and two sons boarded a flight to Malaga on Wednesday to be at her bedside.
Her son Fritz Horten said: “It’s definitely our mother, and she’s okay. We’re totally happy and on our way to see her.”
A spokesman from the mountain rescue arm of the Guardia Civil said: “It was a difficult rescue as she was in a hard-to-reach-area. That she was in such good shape and could even walk after surviving such an ordeal is a true miracle.”