Billen’s family: Make telling hotel where you trek mandatory

2604 Monika BillenLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – After receiving the sad news on January 16 of the confirmation of the death of our daughter and sister, Monika (pictured), we would like at this point to express to the police, all the people who helped them and whose names we do not know, the local media, and the residents of Alice Springs our deepest thanks for their tireless search, and for their concern.

 

We are deeply sorry that you have had to once again undertake a difficult and selfless search for a missing tourist, and we are at a loss as to how we can possibly reciprocate your efforts.

 

At the same time, we have been reflecting as to how such extensive searches could be facilitated or made easier in the future, or how the necessity to conduct them could be forestalled, and the risk for people visiting your area on vacation could be reduced.

 

For instance, tourists could be required to give notice of their destination before they leave in the morning for a hike or day trip, or to check in at the hotel reception desk when they return in the evening, or to carry a GPS tracking device.

 

Perhaps, in this way, human lives can be saved in the future.

 

Unfortunately, it was not possible to save the life of Monika, because her absence was not noticed for several days.

 

Since, however, we are not familiar with the region around Alice Springs, and we do not know what kinds of regulations for hikers and tourists are already in place there, we naturally have no way of knowing if the measures we have suggested are at all realistic, or if, on the other hand, these suggestions for greater safety on tours of the Outback are not at all new to you.

 

Whatever the case may be, perhaps the death of Monika will trigger a discussion in the community of Alice Springs regarding these or similar measures to ensure greater safety, less efforts for involved persons, and inasmuch as possible, lead to the implementation of such measures.

 

Kind regards, Billen Family

Cologne, Germany

 

 

 

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10 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Bev, please go on the net and you will see than in any country the advices given for traveling in the Outback of Australia are the same: weather, dangers etc …
    You said: “People advertising Alice Springs on Internet sites should be made to put a piece on safety in the outback as an introduction to their sites so people booking on line get this information before they book.” Well, they do! Not because they have be told, but because they are responsible people.
    Do you mind to tell us a bit about your experiences as a hiker and trekker?
    Which foreign countries have you visited?
    How may deserts have you visited? How many mountains have you climbed and tell us how many warning signs and leaflets you have seen?
    I am a well traveled stupid old woman, who still knows how and where to seek the pro and the con for a trip
    You said: “Funny but what is coming out in these posts is the lack of responsibility of tourists and locals as well.”
    Have you been with tourists who refuse to drink water? To wear a hat? To go out of a track when you are not looking? Have you argued with a woman who insisted in climbing Kings Canyon in high heels shoes?
    You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

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  2. Bev Emmott
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Funny but what is coming out in these posts is the lack of responsibility of tourist and locals as well. Being in the outback is not a joke – and yes it is dangerous especially for foreigners or people from the coast
    People running hotels, caravan parks, other accomodation should give out safety pamplets when people book in, and ask if they understand the pamphlets, even have them sign to say they read them. It would not have to be a long pamphlet.
    Also people advertising Alice Springs on Internet sites should be made to put a piece on safety in the outback as an introduction to their sites so people booking on line get this information before they book.

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  3. Maskat
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 12:35 am

    I still do not understand, how it could have gone unnotice for so many days, that the occupant of a room was missing at the accomodation, where the lady was staying?
    I have worked in the industry for many years and have never seen anything like that occur? Rooms do get checked every day! And, if someone is supposed to have checked out, would you not inform the police?
    I would be more than happy to help with translations of pamphlets to be given out to every guest on what do do or not to do here in Central Australia in our beautiful desert.

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  4. Maya
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Once again, the drama has occurred, with tears for some, and high cost for the rescuers and the taxpayer.
    I am so sorry for the Billen family for having lost a loved one. Even a familiar bush walker in Germany is no reason to go off the beaten track in Australia.
    It seems there is not enough awareness among people “visiting” the outback, that this region is not Europe.
    It is attractive but the conditions are so different particularly in Summer time. Heat combined with dry air makes your skin unable to sweat to cool down, and your blood under the skin surface reached temp above the 37o and it actually “boils”, possibly to death!
    REMEMBER: (to avoid a drama!)
    • Tell where you intend to go and time you’ll be back.
    • Do not go anywhere (not even for a walk) if the temperature is in the high 30s, certainly not in the 40s. Read a book, watch TV, plunge in the pool, write a poem, listen to music, but do not exercise.
    • Drink 250ml water (a glassful) every hour even in mild weather, even in the winter months – carry at least one litre of water for a four hours trek.
    • Keep on the indicated tracks. Rangers have made these tracks in order to show the proper way in and back. The scenery is treacherous, all trees look alike.
    • At the beach “swim between the flags”. Beyond the flags you risk your life! In the bush keep on the tracks, outside is suicidal.
    • If unwell, sit down and wait. Don’t try to walk back; preserve your energies.
    More than pamphlets, make it visual: TV ads, videos running 24/7 to be watched by any new visitor booking in at hotels, hostels and caravan parks.
    There are too many deaths that could be avoided. Raise awareness.

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  5. Ntharipe Observer
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Ruth Gibbins (Posted January 23, 2019 at 7:55 pm): Monika Billen was not at Trephina Gorge, the park reserve about 85 km east of Alice, where the German couple, the Thors, died from thirst or exposure 12 months ago.
    Monika visited a different park reserve, Emily Gap, which is only about 10 km east of Alice. She seemingly walked there by herself on a very hot day, above 40 degrees centigrade.
    Monika was apparently found under a tree in a rugged area, well away from the road, about three km back towards Alice from that small gorge.
    So she died in the bush about seven km east of Alice, but in the bush, off the road.
    There is no established walking track through the bush from Emily Gap to Alice.
    Sadly, Monika had been missing for a week before anybody realised that she had not returned from her walk to and from Emily gap, along a non-designated route, in the extreme heat.

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  6. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Ruth, go to the tourist bureau in Todd Mall, ask for the leaflet produced by the parks [authority] about Emily and Jessy Gap and you will realise that all needed information is there in black and white
    • Water at Alice Springs 10km away.
    • Best time to visit “certainly not on the hottest days of the year”.
    • Safety and Comfort.
    • Observe park safety signs.
    • Carry and drink plenty of water.
    • Wear a shady hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, suitable clothing and footwear.
    • Avoid strenuous activity during the heat of the day.
    • Consider your health and fitness when choosing a walk.
    • Keep to designated roads and tracks.
    This lady was off the tracks and was not a child in need of a nanny.

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  7. Ruth Gibbins
    Posted January 23, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    I have been in this area, why aren’t there any signs pointing to the road or a water station?
    The Rotary Club of Alice Springs could surely do something to help.
    This is the same place where an elderly couple died last year. How long was Monika missing for? Why didn’t anyone see her? What was she doing there?

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  8. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted January 22, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Make telling hotel where you trek mandatory? But nothing to stop individuals to change their mind once outside.
    Maybe it should be written that “unless you have a death wish and do not realise you will have to pay for your rescue please follow the following guidelines …”
    I will always remember this French tourist who asked me if we were a police state, because the Glen Helen resort asked her to be in by 21 pm the night of her booking.
    I explained that it is for safety reasons not a police control.
    We have to asked: Are we dealing with children or with responsible adults?
    The poor girl in King Canyon, was English and educated however she decided to ignore the English warning signs: “Stay two metres away from the edge.”
    I know that heartbroken relatives do not want to hear the truth her foolishness causing heartaches, money, but no-one blamed her. I did and still do.
    No advice, no signage, will cure foolishness and selfishness.
    As a tour guide, I could write a book about the stupid things done by people on holidays.

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  9. Michael Dean
    Posted January 22, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Being in the industry, it would be great to have someone from NTPFES or police commit themselves to recommending a type and brand of emergency beacon that could be hired out.
    I have tried several times to get an answer with no-one willing to commit.
    Maybe this is a start for the Department of Tourism to follow on from the Coroner’s decision.
    At least it would be a start, maybe along with some posters for accommodation reception areas.

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  10. Andrew Crouch
    Posted January 22, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Accommodation houses and other tourism focussed organisations could readily be encouraged to direct prospective hikers to an Alice Springs business that hires and sells portable locator devices and is experienced in explaining their functions and value. The onus is then with the hiker where the responsibility for their own safety ultimately resides.

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