Nightmare In Turkey

Marta Hepler Drahos

The Record-Eagle
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News
April 13, 2009 Monday
Traverse City, Michigan

Apr. 13–They were on their way to Pamukkale, site of an ancient city
and natural wonder: a miles-wide calcium formation dubbed "cotton
castle" for its dazzling white color.

The trip was part of a much-needed vacation on the Turkish Riviera,
roughly 1,400 miles from their home in Germany. But their perfect
getaway turned into a nightmare when the tourist bus in which they were
riding overturned on its way to the World Heritage site, ostensibly
because of rain.

Now our friends are stranded in a Turkish hospital, one of them in
critical condition with collapsed and lacerated lungs, while their
children wait and worry and try to hold their lives together back home.

Their story actually begins on Christmas Eve, when the matriarch of
the family suddenly became ill. It was the start of a long ordeal
that would involve surgery, treatment, recovery and more surgery for
a serious infection surrounding her artificial knee.

Three months after it began, she was recovering well enough that
our friends could take a well-deserved respite on the Mediterranean,
leaving their daughter, who had just returned from a law internship
at the European Parliament in Brussels, in charge at home.

With its warm climate, seaside resorts and hundreds of archaeological
and historical sites, Turkey has become a popular destination for
European tourists, often competing with Greece, Italy and Spain.

Most tour the country by bus, the easiest, cheapest and most popular
way to travel in Turkey, as evidenced by the mammoth Istanbul
International Bus Terminal with its 168 ticket offices and boarding
gates, Metro station, hotel, restaurants and shopping centers.

But poor road conditions, overworked drivers and a lack of safety
regulations, among other factors, have led to frequent road crashes
in the country.

In May 2005 one Russian died and 36 were wounded, four of them
seriously, when their tourist bus overturned on its way from Pamukkale
to Antalya, a resort city on the Mediterranean coast. In July 2007,
18 more Russian tourists were injured on their way to Antalya when
their bus flipped over on a mountain highway.

In May 2008, four Polish tourists were injured when the bus they were
riding in hit a barrier on the highway (the Polish consul in Turkey
said the road where the accident took place is called "the road of
death" by the Turks). Four months later, 16 Iranian Armenian tourists
were killed and 32 injured when their bus careered off a bendy road.

Now our friend is in a coma in a foreign country, while her children
— aching to see her — suffer through their classes back home. Her
husband spends his days at the hospital, where he’s not allowed near
her bedside, and returns to an empty hotel room at night.

Thanks to travel insurance, their medical and other expenses will be
paid. But even if they recover from this accident, nothing can heal
the emotional scars it’s sure to leave behind.

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