How a Jefferson Township family’s vacation to Mexico turned into a nightmare

Parents Bal Krishna Neupane, (left); his wife Ruka Dahal Neupane (right), both 32; with sons Aarav Neupan, 6, and Arpan Neupan, 3, in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico, on Feb. 22, two days before the incident.

It should have been a dream vacation.

Bal Krishna Neupane and his wife Ruka Dahal Neupane had saved money for a trip to Baja California, Mexico to escape the Ohio winter. Both 32, the couple grew up together in a refugee camp in Nepal and live in Jefferson City, where they raise their two sons, Arpan, 3, and Aarav, 6.

The trip was full of sun, beaches and boating until it turned into a nightmare the night before they left. Just before sunset on February 24, guests found Ruka and Aarav dead in a swimming pool at the center of the resort.

Although there is no evidence of foul play and Mexican authorities have ruled the death an accidental drowning, the father-husband and his family are still searching for answers as to how the mother and son, who could not swim, ended up at the bottom of a pool because it is not there were direct witnesses. Some of the guests who came to the family’s aid questioned whether more could have been done to save the guests.

The general manager of the Villa del Palmar resort, where the family was staying, as well as the resort’s media contact, did not respond to The Dispatch’s requests for comment.

“It seems like an accident — maybe they didn’t realize how deep it was,” Bal Krishna told The Dispatch in Nepali last week at his home in Jefferson Township, after the family’s Hindu funeral rites were over.

“Because we have a small community, everyone knows about it. The entire community is devastated and shocked by this accidental death of this young child and his mother,” said Bhuvan Pyakurel, a Reynoldsburg City Council member who is Bhutanese-Nepalese.

There are about 30,000 Bhutanese Nepalis living in Greater Columbus, according to the non-governmental organization Bhutan of Central Ohio.

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Bal Krishna said he and his wife, who worked together at the Victoria’s Secret distribution center in Reynoldsburg, decided to go to Baja California for the beaches and art scene.

Villa del Palmar, where they are staying, is a five-star, 460-room resort in the town of Cabo San Lucas, with spectacular views of the Sea of ​​Cortez, according to its website.

Bal Krishna said that on their last night, the whole family was playing in a hot tub when younger son Arpan had to go to the bathroom. Bal Krishna took him to use the hotel bathroom inside and when they returned they went to cool off in the shallow end of one of the hotel pools.

But soon they heard screams and saw other guests diving into another pool to retrieve two bodies – which Bal Krishna soon recognized as Ruka and Aarav. A crowd later gathered and American guests from Chicago, Washington and Georgia began performing CPR while hotel staff pulled out AED defibrillators.

According to another guest’s Facebook post, an ambulance was called around 6:25 p.m. — just minutes after sunset.

Blanca Werner, 62, a visitor from Plainfield, Illinois, said she sat with Bal Krishna, who was visibly shaken, and held him.

“He’s asking, ‘How did this happen?'” We couldn’t figure out what happened,” she said.

The family later asked the hotel for security camera footage of the pool from that night, but the hotel told them they didn’t catch any of it on their cameras, according to Narayan Neupane, 32, Bal Krishna’s cousin, who was traveling to Mexico. to calm him down and help him the next day.

Ruka Dahal Neupane with her son Aarav in an undated photo.

Ruka Dahal Neupane with her son Aarav in an undated photo.

Experts say it can be difficult to recognize someone who is drowning because they often cannot wave or call for help.

James Werner, 55, a retired firefighter and paramedic who is Blanca’s husband, said he performed CPR on the mother, who was not breathing and had no pulse when she was pulled from the pool.

“We were doing CPR for over half an hour before the ambulance got there … And it’s like a big urban area,” he said.

Werner said the hotel’s AED machine was also not working and noted that the hotel does not have lifeguards, although it posts “swim at your own risk” signs by the beach.

“There was no oxygen, which you would think would be a standard thing,” he said, adding that there was “minimal equipment and very little help from staff.”

Brent Hamilton, 52, another guest from Alberta, Canada, expressed similar concerns about the time it took for an ambulance to arrive, but said hotel staff were supportive.

“I believe that all the staff that attended did their best. They were very concerned. The people who work there are very friendly, family people and I know it’s been difficult for them too,” he said.

Hamilton also said the AED machine didn’t appear to be working, but even if it had, it might not have mattered because the machines are usually only used when the heart is fibrillating and don’t usually work on a heart that has been completely stopped.

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Narayan Neupane noted that the hotel provided free room and board for him and several other family members while they arranged for the bodies to be transported back to the US

He also thanked the Cotner Funeral Home in Reynoldsburg for helping arrange the transportation of the bodies back home after the original flights were canceled.

Sitting on the floor of his Jefferson Township home last week as his surviving son, Arpan, played with several visiting uncles and aunts, Bal Krishna said it was hard not to think about his lost loved ones.

“When he saw the bed I shared with my wife or saw my boy’s toys…” Bal Krishna said, his voice trailing off. “When I see the school bus go by in the morning, I miss it.”

Peter Gill covers immigration and new American communities for The Dispatch in partnership with Report for America. You can support work like his with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America

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This article originally appeared in The Columbus Dispatch: How a Blacklick family’s Mexico vacation turned into a nightmare

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