“THE TRAGIC DEATH OF ANDREW SMITH”
|Andrew - Surfing||Baby Andrew|
“THE TRAGIC DEATH OF ANDREW SMITH”
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
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
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.
The Cancun paper
printed the next day that our son had jumped off the balcony of
the Hotel Solaris, which caused his death.
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
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