Two Helicopters, 200 People Dispatched for French Family

Two helicopters and a 200-strong force of officials, police and soldiers were dispatched into the forests of Kbal Spean mountain in Siem Reap province on Saturday morning in search of a French family that was stranded overnight after convincing their tour guide to follow their lead.

After visiting temples in Angkor Archaeological Park on Friday morning, the family of four embarked with their guide on a hike to see the ancient carvings in the forest’s riverbeds but became lost as they attempted to find their way back to their hotel, said provincial police chief Sort Nady.

The forests around Kbal Spean in Siem Reap province (Aram Visser/Creative Commons)
The forests around Kbal Spean in Siem Reap province (Aram Visser/Creative Commons)

“Our Khmer tour guide told the French family that they were lost, but the couple told the guide not to worry and to follow them, because they had a map to find the road,” Mr. Nady said on Sunday.

Provincial tourism director Ngov Senghak named the parents as Robert and Sylvie Frapalmieri. At about 9 p.m., Mr. Nady said, the tour guide contacted the provincial tourism department to inform officials that they were stranded.

Five search groups made up of over 200 provincial police and military police, tourism department officials and soldiers were sent out at 6 a.m. the following day after recruiting villagers from the site’s Varin district to help, Mr. Nady said.

“The local people led the way for us to reach the French family because…we don’t know the way to walk through the forest,” he said.

The group was discovered at about 8:30 a.m., 10 km from Siem Reap City, where their hotel was located, Mr. Nady said.

“We used two helicopters to fly around the mountain and we found them Saturday morning,” he said, adding that the helicopters had tracked the group using a GPS signal that the tour guide had on his mobile phone, directing the search groups toward his location.

The family had been in Cambodia for a week and had visited Mondolkiri province prior to Siem Reap, according to provincial military police chief Por Vannit.

“The French family told the authorities that they had used a map to navigate while they were visiting Mondolkiri province but never got lost, so that’s why they trusted the map when they were visiting the Kbal Spean tourism site,” he said, adding that with no food or camping gear, the group appeared quite weak when they were found.

Mr. Nady said that after a medical checkup at the provincial hospital, the group was in good health.

“Our officers brought the French family to the provincial hospital for a medical checkup on Saturday morning, but they were alright and now they are preparing to fly back to their home country today,” he said.

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