Norfolk siblings are reunited with the Thai woman who helped them after the 2004 tsunami
PUBLISHED: 21:00 21 December 2014 | UPDATED: 21:41 21 December 2014
Archant © 2007
The eldest two children of a Norfolk mother who was killed in the 2004 tsunami have made an emotional return to Thailand and been reunited with the Thai woman who helped them in the aftermath of the Boxing Day disaster.
Ben and Emily Willgrass, from Colney, near Norwich, were just 14 and 16 when they lost their mother, 43-year-old Louise Willgrass, and an ITV documentary being screened tomorrow evening sees them retrace their steps and return to Thailand almost a decade later.
Their whole family - including their father Nigel and younger siblings Michael and Katie, then nine and seven - had been holidaying in the Thai resort of Phuket when the tragedy happened in 2004.
Mr Willgrass and all four children managed to reach safety but Mrs Willgrass, who had gone to buy some sun cream, was separated from them.
While Mr Willgrass went to search for his wife, a Thai couple called Yupin and Pitchet offered to look after the children, and in tonight’s documentary viewers will see Ben and Emily meet with Yupin and thank her for her kindness on that terrible day.
Speaking to a national newspaper, Ben, now 24, said Yupin felt like a second mother to them.
He said: “It was amazing. Seeing her brought it all back.
“We only spent one night with them but that connection in a time of adversity was so strong and they have always been in our thoughts.”
Ben, who works for his dad’s financial business alongside Emily, described Mrs Willgrass as “the best mum you could ask for” and said on Boxing Day the family will visit her grave and release paper lanterns in her memory.
“We write messages on them to mum, saying we love her,” he said.
“It’s never sad. We’re usually laughing and joking. It’s sending happy messages off to mum.”
About 230,000 people lost their lives in the Boxing Day tsunami, including 155 British people.
Following the disaster, the Louise Willgrass Tsunami Fund was set up and raised about £800,000 to help Thai children affected by the tsunami.
• Tsunami: Survivors’ Stories is on ITV on Monday at 9pm.
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