“The position of the body determines that it was a fast free-fall, to 71 meters, which is where he was found.” Those were the words on Saturday morning of the central government delegate in Andalusia, Alfonso Rodríguez Gómez de Celis, as he explained to reporters the facts of the last phase of the mission to try and rescue Julen Roselló, the two-year-old who fell into a borehole in Totalán, in southern Spain, on January 13, and whose body was finally recovered in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“Medical tests have been carried out and we hope to have the first results before the end of the day,” he told reporters. “They will be given to the [Málaga judge in charge of the investigation].”
He continued: “It is worth reminding everyone that all court investigations should be kept confidential. For our part, we cannot release any kind of advance information or circumstances. When the autopsy is over, the results will be passed on to the judge.”
Gómez de Celis explained that the regional government covered up the rescue shaft last night with a 600-kilo steel cover, and that the plan is to fill in both the original well that Julen fell into, as well as the parallel tunnel that the rescuers excavated in a bid to reach the child.
“The whole design of the operation, which was carried out on an urgent basis, and all of the work that was carried out, was based on one theory: that Julen was in the borehole,” he explained. “That he was at the depth where he was eventually found. We worked with urgency, but also delicacy. Because the aim was to reach him without causing him any harm.”
The government delegate thanked all of the security forces for their efforts, in particular the miners.
Gómez de Celis explained that Julen was located at 1.25am by two specialist miners and a civil guard – since 3pm on Friday, the workers were accompanied by an officer in their efforts at the bottom of the rescue shaft. The body was removed at 4am.
The government delegate explained that the earth that was covering Julen’s body – and that had proved impossible to remove during early efforts by the rescue teams – had most likely been dislodged as he fell down the borehole. The material covering him, he explained, was “very imperfect, very sandy.” He also said that there were a “number of theories” as to why there was a plug of material underneath Julen, at around 70 meters down in the 110-meter-deep borehole, but no definitive answers yet.
As for a possible air pocket that could have existed in the space around Julen, he explained that it would have been limited to the area between the toddler’s head and feet.
He added that finding out who was responsible for the death of the boy was in the hands of the judge.
The government delegate explained that the earth that was covering Julen’s body had most likely been dislodged as he fell down the borehole
The borehole into which Julen fell on January 13 lacked the proper permits from the regional and municipal authorities. The accident happened when the family was on the rural property of a relative in Totalán, where they were going to cook a paella. The child fell into the hole, which measured barely 25 centimeters across. Since that moment, emergency teams had been working around the clock to locate the child.
The difficulty of the terrain saw the rescue work take nearly two weeks, given the hardness of the rock that had to be excavated as well as the previous work that needed to be carried out in order to allow access for heavy machinery to the area.
Gómez de Celis said that the operation was an “unprecedented” “colossal mission,” in which 85,000 tons of earth had to be moved. “It was an obstacle race,” he said. “Ones that the mountain placed in front of us. It was as if the mountain was defending itself,” he said.
The final work by the specialist miners to reach the borehole began on Thursday at 5.33pm and lasted around 32 hours. During the process, they had to employ a series of small explosions in order to break through the rock. They also had problems shoring up the vertical shaft before the eight miners could begin descending in a specially designed cage.
English version by Simon Hunter.