Over Operaciones Verticales representative: ¨It was probably wrong not having communicated about the accident¨

On Thursday last week, the editor of The Huaraz Telegraph paid a visit to the hospital Víctor Ramos Guardia to search for Julio Anaya Mejia. Julio was one of the people involved in the accident that happened on the 2nd earlier this month in Rataquenua during the setup of a climbing wall. The youngster told our editor that he fine, needed no help and hoped to be released from the hospital soon. As he was not very talkative and said he needed no help, we wished him all the best. During that visit, we received a phone call from Jean Herrera, who presented himself as the Over – Operaciones Verticales representative. Mr. Herrera informed us that he had seen our video and our article and that his company wanted to give some explanations. However, preferably without camera. A request we have honoured. Our editor was patiently waiting at the Parque del Periodista in Huaraz as we got approached by Mr. Herrera who asked us to follow him and to sit down in an agency on the same square. We sat down and got informed about the accident which happened over a week ago by a visible emotionally affected Mr. Herrera.

We first asked Mr. Herrera why their company hadn´t publicly responded and had taken their Facebook page offline. This is what he said:

You could call that a mistake. We don´t have a public relations specialist working for us, although we count with 12 employees. From the moment the accident happened, we have only worried about the wellness of the injured, like for example Vidal Chirihuani from Cusco, who suffered most from the accident. I guess we were too worried to think about communicating with the outside world. From Sunday we have not thought about anything else. I guess we´re all still emotionally affected because of what happened. Regarding to our Facebook page, we have received messages of people who were asking about the event. It was probably wrong not having communicated about the accident although the page is online again.

Jean Herrera continued:

Let me share with you that the wall was partially installed on Friday. On Saturday we continued to finish the job when some strong winds appeared. The climbing event was part of a project that in good faith was executed by us and many friends. Let me make clear that Galaxia Expeditions has not been part of the event. They organised a day hike to Laguna Churup but had nothing to do with the climbing competition. Referring to your article, there were a couple of things that were incorrect. Firstly, the Chilean girl (Lizeth Espinoza) was found on the wall when it came down, right; however, she was not injured. We understand that there´s many people who are waiting for answers. We have directed all our attention to Vidal and the 16th we will organise a small charity event to raise funds.

How is Vidal doing exactly?

Unfortunately, Vidal is suffering from spinal problems, and it looks like he will need an operation. Since the accident happened, we have been trying to help him and we would like to explain to your audience that we have focused on Vidal. We have tried to contact people in Lima so he could be helped. It was probably wrong not having communicated about the accident.

Cesar Vicuña Pajuelo was also present at the meeting and interrupted the conversation:

To me, this is just small mistake, although you´re right calling it an error. What bothers me is that the people speak out now something has happened. In Huaraz when something positive is being organised, no one speaks out.

So Mr. Herrera, please explain why the climbing wall came down

Well, let me tell you that we count with 15 years of experience and that nothing ever has gone wrong. Like I said before, we have started installing the wall two days before the event, on Friday. On Saturday we were going to continue to set out the climbing routes and finish the wall. All of a sudden, a strong wind appeared. The wind lifted up the wall and it came down.

So who were exactly on the wall when it came down?

There were four people on the wall, Lin from Huancayo, but she only suffered some scratches in her face, Julio, Cesar and Vidal. The wall is about 13 metres high and Vidal found himself halfway at about seven metres more or less.  Julio was at the top of the wall, Lin was a couple of metres above Vidal, and Cesar found himself at 10 metres but at the back of the wall. The fall itself of the wall, hasn’t been hard. The wall came down very slowly. As the wall came down slowly, there was some reaction time for the people who were on the wall. Vidal decided to jump from the inclining climbing wall onto the rooftop of the concrete building. In desperation, he must have forgotten that he was attached by a safety cable to the wall. Just before the moment of impact; because he was attached to the wall, he got pulled back and instead of landing on his feet, he landed sidewards on his head. After the accident I have spoken with Vidal and we have offered him first aid. Vidal wanted to go home instantly, but couldn’t.

Will you make a public statement later this week and give explanations?

Yes we will, this is one of the reasons we have called you. We will later this week. Like I stated before, we have focused on Vidal, but, we will later next week.

Do you agree that many people are speculating because no one has communicated about the accident and taken its responsibility?

Many people have recommended that we should, however, we have only worried about Vidal. But I agree that this has been a mistake. Others are saying that we have removed the climbing wall from the terrain to eliminate evidence, but this is not true either. We have taken it down and disassembled it but not to eliminate evidence. I feel really affected by all this as Vidal is a good friend of us. I know that we might face possible lawsuits but we´re not trying to blame others.

What do you think is the main reason that, apart from us, no other medium has reported on the accident?

Well, probably because they lacked information as they weren’t at the event. Let me make clear that we haven´t paid anyone to not report the news. We aren’t hiding either, that´s why we called you. We don’t mind, honestly, our focus is on Vidal at the moment.

Later that night, Jean Herrera would accept a live interview on Cable Andino – Canal 3 to explain what happened on the 2nd of September with the climbing wall. The video of the accident, exclusively published on our Facebook page, was shared over 130 times and gained over 16,000 views. It also generated over 20 different comments of people who directly blame Over Operaciones Verticales and its staff members. Just before publishing this small interview, we were informed that Vidal is still hospitalised in Lima and will be operated on later this week, however, it´s not very likely he might walk again. The Municipality of Huaraz has still made no single statement on the Semana del Andinismo y la Aventura Huaraz 2017. 

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