German tourist praises kindness of locals following accident

Carla Greszies - overwhelmed by the kindness of local people. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

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A German tourist who lost everything, including her pet dog, in a freak road accident is praising the many people who have helped in her time of need.

Zoo keeper Carla Greszies, 54, from Reddinghausen, 100km east of Cologne, had just left her camper van in Glen Etive to take a few pictures, only to see it roll away backwards and fall 30 feet into a storm-swollen river.

Carla rushed to try and grab the van, which contained her pet dog, Holly, but was unable to do anything to stop the plunge.

A horrified Carla had no signal on her phone to call for help, but flagged down a passing car and asked them to drive back to the main road from where they would be able to contact the emergency services.

Carla’s vehicle in the River Etive. Photograph, Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

She said: ‘A young couple stopped to help and wanted to stay with me, but I told them instead to find a signal and call for help.’

Within 15 minutes, Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team were on site, followed by the Coastguard, who braved the torrent to search for Holly, but were unable to get inside the submerged vehicle.

While tragically unable to recover the body of the dog, Ms Greszies’ passport was recovered when her handbag floated out of the van.

Searching the crashed vehicle in the River Etive. Photograph, Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

A regular visitor to Scotland, Ms Greszies ultimately plans to move here, an ambition bolstered by the kindness and help she has received since the accident.

She said: ‘I love coming to Scotland and have visited five times in the past two years and I really want to move here. Everyone has been so good to me – from stopping at the accident just to comfort me, giving me somewhere to stay, providing clothes, toiletries and even large cases to help me return to Germany with what belongings I still have.

The wrecked van after recovery from the River Etive. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

‘I am so upset by the loss of Holly and would like especially to thank Mr Stevenson, who owns the Recovery Company, who came immediately to try and find her. He could not get my van out until the next day, but when he did, his priority was finding her and bring her out to me. He was so kind and asked if I would like to bury her on ground at his home in Spean Bridge where his own dogs lie. We did this and were able to say goodbye.

‘With such caring, now I know I definitely want to live in Scotland.’

Carla Greszies (right) with Leah Whyte and the Harry Potter stone which put them in touch two years earlier. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

During her ordeal Carla stayed with Leah Whyte in Caol, whom she first met through ‘Lochaber Rocks’, where people of all ages decorate small stones and leave them in different locations, putting a message on social media to say where and when they found them, before placing them in a new location.

Leah was one of the founders and responded to Carla’s message about finding a stone two years ago. They have remained in touch ever since. Leah also used social media to ask people to look out for Holly, just in case she had been swept out of the vehicle. In response, the A82 Action Group shared it on their Facebook page and a Glen Etive resident spent five hours walking the river bank looking for the dog.

Carla’s dog, Holly, who was drowned in the accident. Photograph, Iain Ferguson, The Write Image

She said: ‘I was shocked to hear about the accident. Carla and Holly had been for dinner only the night before. Literally all she had was what she was wearing and after I put a bit on social media, people just turned up on the doorstep with clothes and other things for her. She was really touched by everyone’s genuine concern and willingness to help.’

Carla plans to return to Germany at the weekend.