Honeymoon couple in river 'tubing' tragedy

Woman finds husband's body after three-day search

A distraught bride spent three days searching for the body of her husband after he was swept away in a flooded river while they were on honeymoon in Laos.

Michael O'Sullivan and his wife Ilana James had been "tubing" down the Nam Xong on giant tractor inner tubes with 18 other tourists when everyone became separated by the strong currents and turbulence caused by the rainy season. Locals rushed to the riverside with sticks and ropes to rescue 19 of the tourists but they were unable to save Mr O'Sullivan, 39.

His wife led the search for her husband and hired a succession of boats to travel up and down the river, constantly scouring the banks, until she found his body yesterday. On the day her husband went missing she was mugged and had her passport stolen.

The couple, who met while working in a bar in Welwyn Garden City, had saved up since their wedding last November to take a backpacking honeymoon. They set off in June and before reaching Laos had been to India, Malaysia and Thailand. Mr O'Sullivan originally came from Ireland but was brought up in London and studied hotel and catering management at Thames Valley University. Ms James came from New Zealand and they moved to Ireland when they married.

They were visiting the town of Vang Vieng in Northern Laos and decided to go tubing which is described by the Lonely Planet guide as "one of the rites of passage of the Indochina backpacking circuit". The activity is well-established and is popular with tourists but the Rough Guide notes that several people have drowned while tubing on the Nam Xong.

Mr O'Sullivan's family have been angered that he was allowed to travel on a tube without a lifejacket when the river, usually placid, was fast and full. Pennie O'Sullivan, one of his seven brothers and sisters, said: "We want to know why tourists are put in such a dangerous position in the peak of the rainy season with no lifejackets."

His brother, John, said that until the body was found the family was convinced that Michael would turn up safe. "I always thought I would get out here and I would find him alive," said John. "He was such an intelligent and strong guy. It has been a terrible time for Ilana."

John O'Sullivan was angered by the attitude of insurers who he said have refused to pay the £620 costs incurred during the search for the body. He added: "They have made things very difficult for Ilana."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy