Sheila Nabb was attacked so viciously that almost every bone in her face was broken, and now the 37-year-old Calgary woman is in coma in a Mexican hospital, loved ones say.
The medical centre worker, who is originally from Nova Scotia, was on vacation with her husband, Andrew, in Mazatlan at a five-star resort on the country’s west coast. Ms. Nabb was found unconscious, sprawled on the floor of a hotel elevator a few days ago.
The couple, who was married in 2008 in Las Vegas, had been staying at Hotel Riu Emerald Bay in Punta Cerritos. Officials and relatives are still trying to sort out what happened, but Ms. Nabb’s uncle, Robert Prosser, told The Canadian Press that his niece will need plates in her face and her jaw wired shut to repair the damage. She’s in a medically induced coma and has a long recovery ahead of her.
“It would be three to four weeks before they can move her back home to Calgary,” Mr. Prosser said.
He also offered a warning to would-be travellers.
“Pray for her recovery and think twice before you go to Mexico,” he said.
The attack is the latest violent incident in recent weeks involving Canadians either vacationing or living in Mexico. Already this year, two Canadians have been murdered and five assaulted, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Last year, six Canadians were murdered and 50 were assaulted, the highest numbers of victims of serious crime since 2000.
But also since 2000, 185 Canadians have died in what officials classified as accidents. In 2010, five Canadian tourists died in an explosion at the Grand Riviera Princess hotel in Playa Del Carmen. Shoddy and illegal construction of a gas line has been linked to that incident.
Canadians are still flocking to the sun-drenched country in increasing numbers. According to Statistics Canada, more than 1.6-million Canadians visited Mexico in 2010. That’s up from about one million in 2006.
“Our thoughts are entirely with the family of Sheila Nabb,” said Rodrigo Esponda, who directs the Canadian branch of the Mexico Tourism Board. “We are very sorry about what happened.”
He said the country does everything it can to keep tourists safe, adding that most international travellers have very positive experiences.
Amanda Pratt of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies said Mexico seems to get a disproportionate amount of coverage when something bad happens to a Canadian.
“There are millions of trips made every year, and it’s only a very small percentage [of people that]this is happening to,” she said. “For the most part, it’s people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s not really that Canadians are being targeted, it’s just bad luck.”
The association recently concluded a year-long marketing agreement with the Mexico Tourism Board to promote the country to Canadians.
Ms. Pratt said Mexican officials are working to improve safety for tourists, with police at local, state and federal levels pooling their resources to monitor popular destinations and holding more roadside checks.
The Foreign Affairs department has been in contact with Ms. Nabb, her family and Mexican authorities. Officials won’t comment on the safety of travelling to Mexico, but refer potential visitors to its Dec. 5 travel bulletin.
Ottawa has advised Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution due to a deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country” and to avoid all non-essential travel to the Mexico-U.S. border region “due to continuously high levels of violence linked to organized crime.”
Foreign Affairs notes that most major tourist areas have not been affected by the “extreme levels of violence” in the northern border region. This month, Robin Wood of Salt Spring Island, B.C., was shot to death by home invaders in the city of Melaque, and Salid Abdulacis Sabas, who had Canadian identification, was found shot in the head on a street in Culiacan.
In December, the bodies of University of British Columbia student Ximena Osegueda and her boyfriend were found partly buried on a beach in Huatulco. The victims had been bound, stabbed and burned.