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The BBC's Paul Reynolds reports
"Willem is paralysed from the waist down"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 03:11 GMT 04:11 UK
Paralysed boy saved by radio hams
Van Tuijl family
The van Tuijl family in safety at Dallas' Children's Medical Center
A 13-year old Dutch boy shot by pirates on his parents' yacht off the coast of Honduras has survived after a marine rescue co-ordinated by US radio hams.

Willem van Tuijl is now in a Dallas hospital, paralysed from the waist down after being shot in the spine by a bullet from an AK-47 rifle.

The van Tuijl family left the Netherlands in summer 1995 to sail the world in a 15-metre (44-foot) yacht which they built themselves.

Last Tuesday, the boat was moored among reefs 80km (50 miles) off the Nicaraguan-Honduran border, when an unknown boat pulled alongside, crewed by what she presumed were fishermen.

Jannie van Tuijl chatted with the men, while her husband Jacco was returning in an inflatable dinghy with Willem, after visiting another vessel anchored nearby.

Suddenly the men pulled out assault rifles and bordered the van Tuijl's boat, demanding the ownership papers, and shot at the dinghy, sinking it and wounding Willem.< The pirates fled, and Jacco swam back to the boat, carrying his wounded son.

Radio rescue

The US Coast Guard said drug traffickers often use the waters near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border to carry cocaine from Colombia to the United States.

Shortwave radio amateurs gave the family directions to a Honduran rescue ship, which had been summoned by the US Coast Guard.

"If it weren't for them, Willem probably would have died," Jannie van Tuijl said.

It took 20 hours for the boy to reach a clinic in Honduras, from where he was later transferred to the Children's Medical Center in Dallas after several US hospitals refused to accept him because of fears about payment.

"It's a miracle he's alive," Jacco van Tuijl said.

"He's got unbelievable willpower and he prayed a lot. It came from inside."

The parents said Willem knows about his paralysis but has remained in good spirits.

"He's a very strong, bright boy. He said. 'Don't worry, I can be a book writer'," Jacco van Tuijl said.

The family plan to return to the Netherlands when Willem is released from hospital.

In over four years at sea, the family travelled 65,000km (40,000 miles) through the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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