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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 21:25 GMT
Husband's fears for missing wife

Elliott Gotkine
The BBC's Lima correspondent

Austrian Rupert Riedl, whose Scottish wife Bridget went missing last week after an accident in a Peruvian river, talks of the events leading up to the canoeing tragedy.

"At the time it was fine," says Rupert Riedl, a PE teacher who was on an eight-month adventure holiday with his wife and their three children.

They had taken a canoe on the Vilcanota river, in southeastern Peru.

"All the information we had about the river was that it was one, maybe one plus (in white water rafting terms).

Rupert Riedl
Mr Riedl managed to pull his three children into the canoe

"I also walked down a little bit and it wasn't really difficult. It was really bad luck that the boat dipped into an eddy (the river's counter current)."

The eddy current caused the boat to capsize, sending Mr Riedl, his wife and three children into the freezing rapids.

Despite not wearing a life-jacket, he managed to haul Yannik, four, two-year-old Fabio and Olivia, one, back into the inflatable canoe. The children all had life jackets on.

Yannik said he saw his mother - who was also without a life jacket - on a nearby rock soon after, something local farmers confirmed.

'Impossible'

But the currents were strong and by the time help arrived on the scene, Mrs Riedl-Laing was nowhere to be found.

It has now been more than three days since she was last seen.

Major Jose Manuel Cabeda from the neighbouring Quispicanchis police force said it was impossible Mrs Riedl-Laing could be found alive.

Sitting in an armchair at the Austrian consular's residence in Cusco, where he and his children have been staying, Mr Reidl told the BBC how he and his children were coping.

"They're fine," he said, as Yannik darted in and out the room with paintings, one of which had the word "mum" written across the bottom.

"They know all about it, that mummy is not here anymore. For me, it is difficult.

Bridget Riedl-Laing with one of her children, before the accident
Mrs Riedl-Laing led an active life

"It is still hard now, but it will get harder, when normal life goes on because now everyone's helpful, but after a couple of weeks or a month, when you're at home, alone...I can't be a mum you know - I'm a father and that's what I will miss."

Following his interview with the BBC, Mr Riedl was joined by firefighters leading the search.

Strong currents

They tried to help him recall any details that may have slipped his mind about where the accident occurred.

At first light on Saturday morning, teams of fire fighters and local helpers resumed their search for Mrs Riedl-Laing.

The trouble is there are so many currents in and around the area, that some locals have suggested she could have been dragged up to 70km away.

Mr Riedl's parents-in law are due to fly into Cusco on Monday.

Their grandchildren, meanwhile, are apparently so used to sleeping in the Volkswagen combi van that has been their home for the past few months, that they prefer it to the home of the Austrian Consular General's residence.

They spent their first evening as his guest sleeping in the garage.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Elliott Gotkine
"A strong current caused the canoe to overturn"



SEE ALSO:
Peru accident 'destroys' husband
15 Mar 03 |  Scotland
Mother 'drowns saving children'
14 Mar 03 |  Scotland


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