A Hamilton woman and her 10-year-old son narrowly escaped disaster this week after a crash demolished the bus they were riding in, leaving injured passengers walking for over an hour in search of help.
Stephanie Eichler and her son, Zane Hitchcock, are on vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica. On the second day of their trip, Eichler booked a day tour in neighbouring Nicaragua to see an active volcano.
Eichler told CBC News that the tour was great, but passengers were worried about how fast their bus driver was going.
She and her son fell asleep in the back of the bus around 7:30 p.m. — but were violently jolted awake around 8 p.m. when their bus slammed into the back of a parked transport truck, she says.
"It seemed as though a bomb had hit us. I was thrown down the aisle," she said. "Everyone was screaming, blood everywhere, people and chairs on top of each other.
"I found my son under the dislodged chairs in front of us. He was bleeding pretty badly. I scrambled to figure out where it was coming from."
Some passengers managed to kick open an emergency exit door and get outside. Their tour guide and bus driver looked to be seriously injured, she said, leaving them with little help and no cellphone reception.
"So all 24 of us decided that we need to stay together and make it the border of Costa Rica," she said. "We walked for well over an hour. All injured, all bleeding … my son from his head.
"Eventually we got there. Cell service was back and we started calling hotels, travel agents, the tour company — whoever could help us."
Eventually, she says, a bus came for the group and she and her son were dropped off at their hotel at around 1 a.m. "I've heard that the guide is in very critical condition, she said. "The tour company is staying very quiet about it though."
Eichler says by that point she could barely walk and that her son was a "bloody mess," but that she was told at the front desk of her hotel that she couldn't see a doctor right away without giving them a credit card.
"I was so tired and still in shock I grumbled something at him and just limped up to the room," she said, adding that the next day, a hotel representative came to see them and arranged to have the tour company cover their medical bills.
"My son has several stitches on the back of his head. I needed X-rays to ensure that my leg wasn't broken. All in all we're ok. Shaken up, but ok."
Eichler says she is "banged up all over," with a very swollen left knee, right ankle and right shoulder — but no breaks. Her son is otherwise okay, apart from the stitches.
The pair is scheduled to be in Costa Rica until Jan. 21. Her injured knee has meant that they aren't able to get around too much — so instead, they're spending a lot of time poolside.
"We're just trying to make the best of our time here at this point."