Maria Camila Lopez Mora, 16, was killed in a water sport accident while vacationing with her family in Mexico on June 29.
The teen, commonly known as Camila Lopez, was kayaking in the waters by the Now Jade Riviera hotel in Puerto Morelos, less than 40 kilometres south of Cancun, when she was hit by a 16-year-old from London, England, who was driving a rental personal watercraft.
Visitations were held at the Westmount Funeral Chapel on Saturday and Sunday. Her father, Camilo Lopez, expressed his grief and shared words of caution for travellers heading to popular vacation spots.
A close family friend, Maria Laguna, helped translate Camilo’s story, which he told, in part, in Spanish.
It was the second day of the family’s vacation when tragedy struck. Camila was out on the beach getting a kayak with her brother-in-law while the rest of the family was in the hotel.
Camilo said he was changing his clothes and getting ready to head out to take pictures of the pair in the kayak.
“When I came out and I looked out from the hotel, I saw a lot of people yelling and screaming. I thought someone had drowned or something had happened,” Camilo said.
He ran down the beach, uncertain of what happened but hoping he could help.
“When I arrived, I saw my son-in-law screaming, and that’s when I knew something happened to my daughter,” he said.
Staring ahead, keeping his voice steady but revealing pain in his expression, Camilo recounted the events from the moment Camila was pulled from the water to the time she arrived at hospital.
A nurse and an American doctor, guests at the hotel, tried to help. Camila had been hit in the head by the personal watercraft, Camilo believes.
He said an oxygen tank brought from the hotel was empty and the defibrillator didn’t work. An emergency service worker from the hotel who brought the equipment then tried CPR, but Camilo said he was doing compressing under the girl’s shoulder, not in the centre of her chest.
“He seemed like he didn’t know what he was doing,” Camilo said.
Ambulances arrived about 40 minutes later, he said.
Camilo said paramedics were forced to bring the stretcher through an out-of-sight route around the hotel. Taking Camila to the ambulance, the wheels of the stretcher continually got caught in the sand and grass along that route.
Finally, after about a 30-minute drive, they reached a Cancun hospital.
“When we arrived at emergency, the doctors were prepared to help her, but two minutes later they said that she was dead,” Camilo said.
The family has hired lawyers and is preparing a lawsuit against the hotel. They’re also investigating the role the personal watercraft rental company played in the incident.
Camilo said the hotel offered no support prior to them taking legal action.
He is sharing the details with the media, he said, to warn others about safety issues at resorts that may be far away from hospitals or lack adequate emergency services on site.
“In an emergency situation, they don’t have the capacity to appropriately respond,” he said.
Now Jade Riviera and a private watercraft rental company located in the vicinity of the resort did not respond to media inquiries on Sunday.
Meanwhile, family and friends grapple with their grief in losing a bright young woman.
“She was an angel. She showed a lot of love to everyone. … That’s why everyone is here for her,” Camilo said about the dozens of people at the visitation on Saturday.
Camila is survived by her parents, Camilo Lopez and Esperanza Mora de Lopez, and sisters Laura, 25, and Pilar, 28.
A funeral mass will be held Monday at the St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Kitchener at 1:30 p.m.
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