Spanish Hotel Disaster - A True Story

Updated: Feb 6

THE DIFFICULT SECOND BLOG!


So I had to have a think about what to write for that difficult second blog. The trivia of day-to-day lockdown life or something bigger?


I’ve just finished my thirteenth monthly immunotherapy cycle for a stage 3 melanoma. I’ve now scanned clear. Blimey, that was close! Having also just had my first Covid jab, I thought we need something life-affirming. So I’ll tell you a story about when I was 7 years old and was buried under a collapsed hotel.


My two brothers were 9 and 4. We liked to think we were quite grown up.We were on holiday in a hotel in Malaga, Spain 1971.


We woke early. The excitement of being away was too much. The night before, we’d all watched in fascination as a talented painter, with his easel, worked on an amazing painting in the hotel lounge. It was like watching magic. We were fascinated. Now, early the next day, we were the artists. We got up, got dressed, quietly, so as to not disturb our parents who were fast asleep in an adjoining room. We grabbed sketch pads and pencils and made our way down to breakfast. We were playing grown-ups now and it felt good.


THE ROOF'S CAVING IN!


We finished breakfast and made our way to the very sofa where we had sat the night before. Within what seemed like moments, I looked up to see a giant crack appear in the ceiling.

It didn’t seem real and yes, it really did seem like it happened in slow motion, but the ceiling was actually caving in. I have a vague recollection of deathly screams (although that may have been my imagination!). Blackout.


BURIED ALIVE!


The next thing I knew, I was waking up entombed in rubble after the annexe of the hotel had apparently collapsed burying me and my brothers instantly. If one of us had been standing up, we would have been killed where we stood. All three of us were sitting together. That saved our lives.


They were trying to build on the roof of the single-story annexe of the hotel. They had decided that it was a good idea to place heavy machinery on the roof. The roof did not agree.



When I came to, I realised that Mark was next to me and I could hear four-year-old, Darren (now Raz) next to him. We couldn’t move. It was pitch black.


I have no idea how long we were unconscious for but it seemed to go on forever. We were entombed in rubble and couldn't move. We were stuck where we fell. We could hear each other and tried to comfort each other the best we could. Raz couldn’t really say much as he was so young and his mouth was full of dust and rubble. The situation seemed hopeless. We made a feeble plan to take it in turn to shout for help.


MEANWHILE, MUM & DAD WOKE UP


The tower, where all the guest bedrooms were situated, had been unaffected by the collapse of the annexe. All that happened was the power went off. They didn’t think too much about it until they went through to our empty room. They looked out of the window to see dead bodies being pulled out of the wreckage and the injured being put on to stretchers, into ambulances and whisked off to hospital, sirens and lights blaring. No sign of the kids.


They dressed in a panic and had to run down several stairs as the lifts were out due to the power cut. They got downstairs, breathless.....to carnage. 4 people had been killed, 17 injured. Not including the three boys. They hadn’t been accounted for. Mum and Dad went off to find whoever was in charge of this mess. They were told that the entire site had been searched and everyone accounted for, except us! The only place they hadn’t searched was the area of the lounge where the artist had been painting the night before.


THEY'LL BE SAT NEXT TO LAST NIGHT'S ARTIST


They said that they could not dig there because it was unsafe and it might collapse in on itself. Using some sort of sixth sense, my dad insisted that we would be found where the artist had been sitting the night before. The reason they didn’t want to dig there was that, when the roof collapsed, the sofa, where we were sitting on, crashed through the floor into a wine cellar below. A girder had come down, narrowly missing us but protecting us from the impact of the collapse. They said that if they disturbed it, it would collapse and we would probably die. Again, my Dad insisted.


After what seemed like an eternity, under the rubble, the three of us were losing hope. We were intermittently crying and keeping up our increasingly futile cries for help. We heard a faint noise which grew louder and then a Spanish voice, Jose Luis Martos Morales of the Malaga Fire Service called our names.


RESCUED: CHICOS DE DIOS: CHILDREN OF GOD!


Emerging one by one on stretchers, the world’s press greeted us with cameras and light bulbs flashing in our faces. One of Raz’s overwhelming memories was peeing on the fireman’s shoulder! We were whisked away to be looked after by some nuns in a nearby infirmary.



By some sort of miracle, we were the only three unharmed apart from a few cuts and bruises. The Spanish press dubbed us ‘Chicos De Dios’ or ‘Children of God’. The world’s press queued around the corner, each journalist bearing a bigger present to ‘bribe’ the best story out of us. They then proceeded to write whatever they wanted to. One newspaper said that we had all sorts of broken bones, another showed three pictures of my older brother, Mark in different positions with captions saying that it was each of us. The most annoying headline was in the London Evening Standard: 'I prayed just as my mummy has taught me' - 7 year old Bradley said last night. There is no way I EVER said that!!


JOSE LOUIS MARTOS MORALES


‘So the fireman who pulled you out of the wreckage has never left Spain, but we’ve flown him from his home in Malaga to meet you here tonight.’ Noel Edmund’s dulcet tones introduced José onto ‘Time Of Your Life’. It was about 10 years later and they were reviewing the year 1971. Ted Heath, the former prime minister, was on the show, as was Chay Blyth, who had just sailed single-handedly around the world. We were the last piece on the show. He came nervously on, handed us a Malaga Fireman plaque and even though he couldn’t speak a word of English, said the words he had been practising: ‘Chere ees a prezen from the fireman of Malaga’. It’s true, we owed this man our life, but when they put us with him and his interpreter in the green room, what do you say? Thank you, thank you, gracias, gracias! I think it was a little awkward. But I’m glad we met him.





TREASURE EVERY DAY!


Writing this blog, it almost seems like fiction now almost 50 years later. But every word is true as I remember it. Of course, the parts featuring Mum and Dad are by their very nature what I imagine they were doing. Give me a break! A tiny bit of poetic license! But all the main facts are true.


The three of us turned out alright, without claustrophobia or any major phobia’s, which is even more extraordinary.


We always said that we would turn the story into a film or a series but never got round to it. Do any producers out there fancy taking it on?


Brad Shaw Jan 2021 - Please like, share and comment.


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