Tourists rescued in Bali with help of Facebook friends around the world
When Mike Lythcott and his friend drove a scooter into a ravine, he posted: 'Help. In danger. Call police'
When Mike Lythcott drove his scooter over a cliff 100 metres into a ravine in Bali, he used his phone's last reserve of battery power to post on Facebook: "Help. In danger. Call police."
Within a minute, the American globetrotter's friends in several countries started mobilizing to figure out exactly where he was and send help.
"I've been travelling the world for almost 10 years straight and I've made a lot of friends all over the world and I think that that's also a big part of what saved me," Lythcott, 36, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.
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The Atlanta native, who has been living Libson, Portugal, for three and a half years, was travelling around Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali with his friend Stacey Eno when the pair crashed their scooter over an embankment and into a ravine.
Lythcott, who was driving the bike, said his brakes gave out as he was navigating a turn on the way back to their hotel on the evening of Aug. 23.
"I don't have any memory after that because we obviously hit hard," he said. "But then we came to, and that's when I realized things were bad."
'I'm going to die here'
It was 3 a.m. and pitch black. Both friends could barely move and were slipping in and out of consciousness. They were deep in a ravine at a steep angle and could feel themselves slipping further down.
"All I could hear was the sound of a river and obviously my friend, who was on the bike with me, calling out my name, calling out for help," he said. "All I could see was a dark night sky through the tops of the trees."
Lythcott's glasses had flown off his face and his cellphone with a local SIM card was out of reach.
"My first thought was, 'I'm going to die here.'"
Then he remembered he had his other iPhone with an American SIM in his jacket pocket.
"I prayed that it was still there," he said. "It was."
A frantic Facebook message
The battery was already down to 40 per cent. It's an old phone, Lythcott said, and the battery dies quickly, so he knew he had to act fast.
In a moment of dazed confusion, he tried calling 911 before realizing that wouldn't work in Bali.
Rather than waste time trying to Google the local police station, he just opened Facebook and typed out his simple message and tagged his location.
"I had to get the widest message out and, of course, Facebook was the first thing I thought of because you can do live locations, you can do WhatsApp with live GPS locations dropping a pin, so I realized it was the only shot to get people to figure out where we were," he said.
His Facebook friends immediately jumped into action.
"Literally within two minutes, I started getting phone calls," he said.
Quickly losing power
The network co-ordinated their efforts to get help for Lythcott and Eno. One person called the U.S. consulate in Indonesia. Another tracked down the number for local police.
"It was great that I talked to him because some people were worried that his phone had been stolen or that his account had been hacked. And I was able to say, I know his voice and I know it is him, that he is very badly injured and needs help," Aimee Sparks, one of the friends who helped Lythcott, told CNN.
Using his GPS and his description of the sound of rushing water, his friends were able to figure out that he was near a well-known local waterfall called Sweetwater Falls.
"When the guy from the consulate finally got ahold of me on WhatsApp, he's like, 'Where are you?' I'm like, 'I don't know, but here's the name of the hotel that's just around the corner,'" Lythcott said. "And I said to him, please, I'm on one per cent.'
"And sure enough, like 30 seconds later, as he's trying to confirm the location, battery dies."
After that, they just waited.
Lythcott said he and Eno were sporadically losing consciousness and slipping deeper down the ravine.
Recovering from injuries
It was about sunrise when they finally heard voices calling out. He estimates he and Eno were there for four hours in total.
The pair were rushed to hospital, where Lythcott was treated for a fractured skull, fractured ribs, a broken wrist, a perforated abdomen, internal bleeding and collapsed lungs.
Eno fractured both of her cheekbones, her nose and her left wrist.
Both are expected to make a full recovery.
Lythcott said that if he wasn't able to get the message out to his friends, he likely would have died from his injuries in the ravine.
When he's fully healed, he plans to head home to Atlanta and "stay put for awhile."
"I think this is a sign that I need to slow it down," he said.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Mikey Lythcott produced by Ashley Mak.