Andrew's Story


Andrew - Surfing Baby Andrew


Ten of us left for Cancun on what was supposed to be a week of fun and sun and to create happy family memories. Nine of us came back to the United States and the memories were anything but happy.

We tell our story and encourage others to share theirs in hopes of educating people on the perils of vacationing in Mexico. We were not aware of these horrors before our trip.

We believed all the ads and talk about a relatively inexpensive vacation in Mexico full of fun, sun and relaxation.  That was until our 16-year-old son Andrew fell into an unprotected elevator shaft and our nightmare began.

Our son Andrew was on the fourth floor of the Hotel Royal Solaris and pushed the button for the elevator. While waiting for the elevator he leaned on a painted white plywood structure next to the elevator. The structure hinged inward away from what was an open elevator shaft. As the unsecured structure collapsed away from the open elevator Andrew fell through the open shaft 5 stories to the basement of the Hotel Solaris.

Andrew’s friend Ray, who was also 16, was waiting for the elevator with Andrew. He ran down to the pool area to tell us what happened. When we ran to the elevator the Hotel Solaris staff had moved a similar plywood structure from the lobby level and we could hear Andrew asking for help. At first they would not let us near the elevator. Andrew’s brother, Shawn, his cousin Zach and Ray ran to the 4th floor so that they could talk with him. The Hotel Solaris then agreed to let us talk to him.

“I need help, I can’t get up,” Andrew said. “I just need help man.”

We told him help was on the way and how much we loved him.  We didn’t know then that there was no real help on the way. We also didn’t know that he was lying there, bleeding, while no trained medical staff was on the way. 

It took 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.  They administered oxygen and an IV and told us that they were not authorized to move Andrew until a doctor came.  We paced back and forth and talked to Andrew for another 35 minutes while a doctor, untrained in trauma, came to the hotel. We believe he was a pediatrician.  Our 16-year-old, just shy of 6 feet, and a 225-pound muscular football player, was not in need of a pediatrician.  He needed a trauma crew and he needed it fast.

Fifty minutes of what is referred to as the golden trauma hour in which it is critical for all trauma patients to get to a hospital was now wasted waiting for this doctor. The doctor who arrived at the hotel decided to remove Andrew from the steel bar he was imbedded on rather than cut the bar and reduce the amount of blood loss.  Andrew was removed from the shaft and put on a stretcher where he lied gray and bleeding with part of his intensities now outside his body from the removal of the bar. Andrew was still saying he loved us and just needed some water.

Andrew and his dad were then taken by ambulance to the hospital.  In the ambulance his dad had to hold him on the gurney because he was not strapped in. One of the EMT’s tried to administer an IV but the doctor stopped him. Andrew’s dad asked that he be given an IV but the doctor said, “No,” and the EMT went back to the front of the ambulance for the rest of the ride.  Andrew’s dad asked if there would be a surgical team ready for Andrew and the doctor said, “Yes.”  Andrew’s dad begged the doctor to do something to stop the bleeding or let the EMT’s do something. The doctor did nothing. No pressure was ever applied to the wound other than by Andrew’s own dad trying to save his son.  The doctor did nothing for our son on the way to the hospital. He did not even talk to our son who kept asking for “Aqua, aqua.”

At the Las Americas Hospital where Andrew was taken to, in the hall of the emergency room, nurses opened up plastic wrapped medical equipment on top of our son and began spraying the equipment.  They removed my husband to the waiting area saying they were taking Andrew to surgery.  About 20 minutes after this the doctors came out to tell us Andrew’s heart stopped several times on the table and that he was now dead.

In shock we took our son home to bury him and we were forced to try to figure out why no one trained in trauma was called to help our son and why he was basically left to bleed to death.

Our nightmares over our son’s death and the horrors of dealing with Mexico continue.  We have been left to feel like doctors in Mexico are incapable of handling a trauma situation or unwilling to help tourists. Similarly, we believe that everyone in Mexico lies to protect themselves; that they do not care about anyone unless there is money to be gained and that most agencies and officials want to be bribed for any information.

In exchanging stories with other Americans who have lost love ones in Mexico it seems to be the protocol to not administer medical care and let the person die. The authorities then say that our loved ones jumped, or drowned. They don’t mention that the doctor refused to treat them at poolside even though they still had a pulse (See Nolan Webster story), or that the uncovered pool drain sucked your child in the pipe, which caused him to drown. (See Brent Midlock story) or they say that your son jumped off a balcony, not that he fell off the balcony, because the balconies in Mexico are kept low as to not obstruct pool or ocean views and don’t adhere to any safety regulations (See Tim Flocco story).

Hotel Solaris Lies

When we left for the hospital a driver from the hotel took five family members in a hotel van along with two social directors from the hotel that had been exceedingly nice to us during our stay at the hotel. They assured us that Andrew was going to the best hospital and that he would be ok.  At the hospital they held our hands and gave us words of encouragement and they called their priest to come to the hospital.  The minute they found out that Andrew had died they left the hospital and we never heard from them again.

As we arrived back at the hotel from the hospital the hotel staff was putting up yellow and black caution tape on the plywood structures on each level of the hotel.  They later bolted them to the walls. It’s hard to comprehend that less then $100.00 in locks and caution tape would have saved our son’s life.

The next day my sister was exchanging money at the front desk of the Hotel Solaris when another hotel guest walked up to the manager at the desk and asked how the young man in the elevator made out last night. They told him, “He’s just fine. He didn’t even break a bone.”  My sister let the hotel guest know that her nephew had died and that this hotel was a bunch of liars.

Newspaper lies

The Cancun paper printed the next day that our son had jumped off the balcony of the Hotel Solaris, which caused his death. 

Police Lie

After five of us were taken to the hospital the hotel staff and police came to my sister’s hotel room. They took Ray (Andrew’s friend) at my sister’s objection saying that he was in Mexico and US rules did not apply. She said he was a minor, and they had to wait until his guardians arrived. They told her “Not in Mexico” and took Ray. They questioned Ray for hours before his guardians could be reached at their hotel. Over much objection they finally released Ray.

The police picked up Ray the next day and again questioned him for hours with and without his Aunt and Uncle present. His Aunt and Uncle called us here in the States to say they would not let him go. We had friends start calling senators and other constituents here in the U.S. to try and have him released.  Ray was finally released after hours of questioning, being forced to answer questions based on restaged photos of the elevator seen. Ray told them over and over that it was not what it looked like. They had restaged it to make it look like Andrew would have to force the structure away and not as it was in which a 4-year-old could have moved it.  They did finally present photos of the actual way it was, which they again questioned Ray on over and over.

Demand for medical payment

As they took our son back to surgery the hospital personal wanted to know how we were going to pay for surgery before they would actually start. They wanted to be able to speak to someone at our insurance company even though it was 9 p.m. in the States.  They finally agreed to perform the surgery.  The next morning the hospital called us at the hotel and said we would not be allowed to leave the country until the hospital bill was paid.  We had to put it on our charge card over the phone or authorities would stop us from leaving the country.

Refusal to give us medical and police reports

It took us to the extent of hiring lawyers in the U.S. and Mexico and numerous contacts with the American Consultant in Mexico to have any official reports released regarding the autopsy, ambulance, hospital and police reports.  Through many efforts from us, and our lawyers in both countries, it still took 15 months before we received any of these reports.

Please just know before you go

We realize that thousands of people have gone to Mexico and had great vacations often returning again and again.  Yes, it is a fun place to go to as long as you do not need medical attention or have to deal with the police for any reason, and can safely travel around the country without being raped, robbed or beaten.  Please read some of stories shared on this web site to get an idea of what is happening all over Mexico, not just in Mexico City and Tijuana.  Read the statistics on rape robbery, and muggings of tourist. We share are losses with you to honor those we lost by helping your families to make an educated vacation choice and to keep your families whole. We also hope by speaking out about our losses that we will encourage more safety laws and better medical treatment for those who live in Mexico.

Please help us to honor our loved ones by making educated decisions on all your travels.


The Family of Andrew Smith