Polish family of mountaineer who died in Ojos del Salado thanks rescue guide from Huaraz

A gnieszka Cruz-Koniak, daughter of the Polish mountaineer who died on Volcano Ojos del Salado (located on the Argentina-Chile border) earlier this month, praised the efforts of mountain guide Eric Albino who, along together with the Grupo de Operaciones Policiales Especiales (GOPE), volunteered his services free of charge to help rescue the body of her father.

Having obtained permission of the family, the mountaineer was able to remove the belongings of the deceased and return the truck that the Polish national had used to make his ascent. Agnieszka, the only member of the Spanish-speaking family, said of Eric Albino; “He did not want anything [for payment]. He wanted to save my father and free us from this nightmare. A week had already passed but the police had not gotten him out. That hurt a lot, knowing that my father was just lying dead in the mountains.”

Deeply pained by the situation, she added that “there are no words for what I feel right now, it is so painful. There are photos of my father everywhere- you can’t imagine how much it hurts.”

For this reason, she expressed her and her family’s deep gratitude towards Eric Albino and the Chilean guide who accompanied GOPE on the expedition: “I never thought I would find someone so good, who would help out sheer kindness. I mean, I was willing to have paid his expenses. Every outlet has reported that GOPE brought down my father, and even though it is true, it wasn’t without Eric’s help. Recognizing and thanking him for what he did is the least we can do for him,” said Cruz-Koniak.

When asked about what would happen to her father’s body in the next few days, Cruz-Koniak indicated that it would not return to Poland, though she would rather not comment any further as the subject is delicate and needs to be discussed with her family.

The Rescue

GOPE confimed that it had indeed worked with a person who was representing the interests of the family in order to carry out the rescue of the body. “Considering where and how high the body was, we had to come up with a plan to access the site. At that time, we were approached by someone who had already contacted the relatives of the deceased person in order to retrieve some personal belongings and help collaborate with the rescue,” stated the head of GOPE, Rodrigo Videla.

Eric Albino said that once he had received permission from the daughter of the victim, he then coordinated with a guide from Vicuña, Eduardo Olivier, and they started to work with GOPE.

“For financial and judicial reasons, we couldn’t go alone. GOPE handled the whole operation, and we helped and volunteered in bringing the body down as quickly as possible so that it could be delivered to the city forensic doctor, after which they could send the remains to his loved ones,” said Albino.

“We went up to help and to recover his personal items, but that was a job for the police and so I just drove the rented truck back to the owner in Copiapó,” he continued.

Eduardo Olivier, the guide from Vicuña, had previously been a park guard of the Ojos del Salado volcano, and also aided in the rescue. “The body had been there for more than 10 days and it must be hard for any child who sees in the news that their parent has been left out in the open. So when they contacted us, I said right away that I could go help to rescue him,” said Olivier.

The specialist mountaineers stated that they arrived at the site of the body on Friday [last week] to help with the rescue, and that on Saturday they managed to descend the volcano with GOPE.

Original text: Daniela Munizaga
Translated by Nicola Phillips
Picture: Eric Albino

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