How an emergency Facebook post and global network of friends saved American travelers' lives in Bali

Chris Boyette, CNNUpdated 6th September 2018
(CNN) — Mikey Lythcott has friends all over the world. That's mostly because he's been all over the world. There are postcards and the occasional letter, but Lythcott mostly keeps his friends up to date on his world travels via social media.
When a scooter wreck sent Lythcott and a traveling companion off an embankment into a ravine, that digital circle of friends may well have saved their lives.
The 36-year-old American ex-pat living in Lisbon, Portugal, often posted his globetrotting adventures on Facebook, but on August 22, instead of pictures of a new beach or exotic market scene he posted only "Help. In danger. Call police."
Lythcott and traveling companion Stacey Eno were driving a scooter in Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali when a van passed them as they were going up a hill.
"After it passed, I could see a turn coming up," Lythcott said, "So I hit the brakes as normal, but the brakes didn't slow the bike leaving us very little time to make a move and not enough time to negotiate the turn."
Lythcott and Eno had met traveling in Thailand in February. Eno teaches English in Gwangju, South Korea, and the two had planned to meet in Bali. They'd only been in Indonesia for seven hours when their scooter went into the ravine.
Michael Lythcott and Stacey Eno met in Thailand earlier in 2018.
Michael Lythcott and Stacey Eno met in Thailand earlier in 2018.
Michael Lythcott/Facebook
As he came to, Lythcott said he couldn't see a thing but the sky through the trees.
It was dark, he said, and he could feel he was on some sort of incline. His helmet and eyeglasses were gone but he could feel he was slipping down the incline when he realized he couldn't use his left wrist.
"My back felt half broken," said Lythcott. "I couldn't move and barely could pull myself up when I found a thick vine in the dark. Every move, I kept slipping."
Lythcott heard running water so assumed if he slipped enough, he'd fall in.
He called out to Eno who finally responded. She told him she couldn't move either and thought she was hurt badly.

Facebook SOS

"I then did think 'I'm gonna die here,' because no one knew we were here or went over and we were both hurt and for a minute I couldn't even remember how we got there."
Lythcott said his memory snapped back and he decided he had to do something. He'd been carrying a phone with a local SIM card but it must have been thrown somewhere in the crash because he couldn't find it. His American phone, he realized to his surprise, was in his jacket and hadn't gone flying in the accident.
"I got it and turned on international roaming and just barely I got a signal," Lythcott said.
He put out an SOS on Facebook and waited.
"I saw Mikey's post just a minute or two after it went up," said Aimee Sparks. "I work remotely and tend to have Facebook open while I work. I saw it and of course was startled and a bit surprised... I worried that he had been drugged or kidnapped or something."
Sparks and Lythcott became friends in Seattle around 2004 before he moved to Brooklyn. They traveled together to Nepal in 2014.
"I went on his FB page and was going to send him a message when I realized that there is a call option now, so I called him. I think I was the first person to actually talk to him."
Facebook friends from all over the planet were trying to find Lythcott and Eno.
"It was great that I talked to him because some people were worried that his phone had been stolen or that his account had been hacked. And I was able to say, I know his voice and I know it is him, that he is very badly injured and needs help," said Sparks.
Lythcott could only type with one hand and his phone was dying.
"He said he didn't know where he was, that he woke up in the woods. He was very disoriented," said Sparks. "I asked him if he could send me a pin drop, which he did."

Losing consciousness

Based on that location information, a friend in Vancouver started making calls to connections she had in Indonesia.
A friend in Los Angeles used online maps to figure out Lythcott was likely near a waterfall and posted it on that thread and got it to rescuers on the ground. A friend in Prague posted numbers of the consulate and a friend in the Netherlands called the local Bali police.
"A bunch of Mikey's friends were posting phone numbers to call, and I got in touch with a woman named Christine at the consulate, I think. She gave me her email and I sent her screenshots of Mikey's location," said Sparks. "I don't want to think about what would have happened if he didn't have his phone, or if his battery was dead."
Lythcott managed to identify his location using a WhatsApp pin drop.
Lythcott managed to identify his location using a WhatsApp pin drop.
Facebook
"I got a call from a guy named Joe from the [consulate] who said help was coming but to help him find me," said Lythcott. "I told him there was a hotel near my GPS pin, that I'd be just before that hotel, then my battery died."
At that moment Lythcott said Eno started to slip down the ravine and he felt himself losing consciousness.
Though he wasn't sure it was the truth, he kept telling Eno that help was on the way.
"I really thought we would die so I wanted to comfort her," Lythcott said.
In what Lythcott said felt like three or four hours, the traveling friends heard people on the road and called out. It was a rescue party. The rescuers pulled Lythcott and Eno out of the ravine.
"It was morning," said Lythcott, "It was the first time seeing how far we went down. It was far."
The rescuers put Eno and Lythcott in the back of a flatbed truck and brought them to a nearby hospital but after they did X-rays it was clear they would need to be transferred to somewhere more equipped to deal with their injuries and they were brought to the BIMC Hospital in the Bali resort town of Kuta.
Lythcott had surgery on his skull to fix a fracture, then his wrist, which was broken, then his abdomen to fix a perforation and then had chest tubes inserted to inflate lungs.

'Wild ride'

Lythcott suffered a fractured skull, broken wrist and other injuries.
Lythcott suffered a fractured skull, broken wrist and other injuries.
Michael Lythcott/Facebook
He was in the hospital until September 3.
"I'm super lucky," Lythcott said.
For now, Lythcott is in a hotel in Kuta. His sister has come out to join him until doctors clear Lythcott to fly back to her home outside Atlanta, where he plans to stay with family and finish his recovery.
Eno fractured both of her cheekbones as well as her nose and left wrist in the accident and something split her tongue but was able to go home.
Eno says without the help of technology they wouldn't have survived.
Eno says without the help of technology they wouldn't have survived.
Stacey Eno/Facebook
From South Korea, she said the ordeal had been "a wild ride."
"This guy's [Lythcott's] trip to Indonesia to meet me spontaneously meant his 55th country!" she said. "He truly he inspires me. I know travel is scary and risky sometimes, but there is no way either of us will stop.
"When traveling you meet so many people with interesting and outstanding things to share. This tragic accident has shown us and reminded how many people we have touched along the way. Yes, without technology and friends we would have not survived. Without the people we met along our adventures we would be much deeper in trouble and less of this magic you give."
Lythcott and Eno said dealing with medical bills out of their home countries has presented a real challenge. Both have set up fundraising pages for their medical expenses. Lythcott's Go Fund Me Page can be found here and Eno's here.