Twenty six-year-old Jason Enwere sits at home in Richmond Hill on his couch with his right leg propped up on an adjacent cushion and wrapped knee to ankle in gauze. He has a scar under his right eye and another on the top of his head. The scars are permanent reminders of a recent trip to Mexico that was supposed to leave his family with warm memories.
“It was the ideal vacation,” he recalls.
“We’d been waiting for this vacation for a few years and we finally did it, we finally saved up… And it was like a nightmare.”
Enwere and his brother Daniel took their mother, Dorothy Ijeoma Eze on a trip to Playa Del Carmen for her 50th birthday. Photos and videos from the trip show them smiling, enjoying their time on the beach. But joy turned to injury and anger three days later with Enwere nursing multiple gruesome injuries from what he says was a brutal attack and robbery.
“I have severe abrasions on my right elbow, on my right hip, my right knee. I have third-degree road friction burns from my knee down to my ankle… Two major contusions on my head. One under my right eye that needed four stitches… and one on my head that needed nine stitches… A concussion from the blow to the head. Lots of swelling and cuts.”
On the night of Feb. 22, Enwere says he decided to head out alone to explore the nightlife on the main strip of the popular tourist destination. During the earlier part of the trip, Jason says the family had taken local buses and taxis with other passengers in them, so he felt safe riding in close quarters with locals. He says even the cab he took to the main strip pulled up with two other passengers in tow.
That’s why he didn’t feel nervous when the taxi that stopped to give him a ride back to the hotel that night already had a passenger in the backseat. Enwere says he bartered for a ride back for 200 pesos and got into the front passenger seat. He didn’t realize anything was wrong until the cab started driving in a direction away from his hotel and began slowing down.
“I turned and I looked at [the driver] and right when I was about to say something, I felt two hands put me in a chokehold.”
Immediately, Enwere claims he was engaged in a two-on-one fight in a moving vehicle with the driver and passenger. Overwhelmed, he lost consciousness twice during the struggle; once from the chokehold and a second time after the passenger struck him in the head multiple times with a large rock.
Enwere says he was awoken again by a sharp pain in his right leg and opened his eyes to find himself hanging halfway out of the cab; still secured in by his seatbelt; his leg under the moving vehicle, scraping against the road.
“It’s excruciating pain.”
At that point, Enwere claims he wriggled out of the jammed seatbelt and rolled out of the vehicle, which kept driving away.
Bloody and battered, his phone, jewellery and cash stolen, he says he limped two kilometres, trying to flag down drivers for help. None of them stopped. He eventually came across a group of police officers who wanted to take him to a hospital; but scared and wanting to get back to his family, he insisted on being transported back to the hotel, where he was greeted by his mother.
“I remember hugging her and I just started crying. I’ve never cried like that in my life, ever. I was weeping.”
Enwere says his mother, a registered nurse in Nunavut, became his main caregiver for the remainder of the trip after medics there were unable to properly install an IV line in his arm and then put the wrong type of gauze on his leg wound, causing it to rip at the healing skin upon removal.
“If someone were to say, ‘Jay, should I go to Mexico?’ First thing is, I would ask them, ‘Why?’” says Enwere.
“For a little vacation? Five, seven days? There are lots of other places you can go.”
According to Mexican press reports, officials there are investigating Enwere’s allegations but have made no arrests so far.
The claims are the latest bit of bad press for Mexican tourism due to violence. There is even a travel advisory in effect for Playa Del Carmen specifically after an explosion on a tourist ferry that officials say was caused by a rudimentary bomb.
Despite that, travel agencies like Flight Centre say they haven’t seen any drop in Mexican vacation bookings. However, the agency’s vice-president of retail operations says they are receiving more safety-related questions from clients.
“It is really important that you understand that you’re a guest in another country,” says Gavin Miller.
“So you’ve got to be careful anywhere you go in the same way that you would be at home.”
Enwere insists he was exercising caution. The reason he felt safe taking the taxi he did is because his family had already done it previously on the trip.
As he continues his recovery at home, he tells Global News he did get some good news on Wednesday afternoon. It turns out he won’t need a graft to replace the skin shredded from the lower half of his right leg.
While Enwere says he doesn’t hold a grudge against the people of Mexico for what allegedly happened to him, he is steadfast in his opinion of the country as a safe tourist destination.
“I will never go to Mexico again.”
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