A 13-year-old Dutch boy sailing around the world with his parents was shot by suspected drug traffickers off the coast of Honduras and brought to the United States for treatment after a rescue effort launched by ham radio operators.
Willem van Tuijl was flown to Children's Medical Center in Dallas on Saturday and was in fair condition Monday with kidney and spinal cord damage, hospital officials said. He was paralyzed from the waist down.
"I feel fine," Willem said from his hospital bed Monday morning. "It wasn't that bad. I was worrying about my parents because they were sad. I wasn't scared at all."
Jacco van Tuijl, the boy's father, said the attackers boarded the family's 40-foot sailboat Tuesday night off the coast of Honduras and fired repeatedly. The boat flies a U.S. flag.
The pirates then left. The father said he believes they didn't steal the sailboat because they didn't know how to navigate it.
The parents, who weren't hurt, radioed for emergency help and eventually located Dr. Jim Hirschman, a Miami doctor and ham radio operator. He guided them in treating the boy for nine hours until help could arrive. The boy's mother, Jennie van Tuijl, is a nurse.
Drug traffickers often use the waters near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border as a transit route for cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
Hospital officials said the van Tuijl family had set sail from the Netherlands several years ago on a trip around the world.Reuse content