TOTALAN, Spain: A funeral service van drives to a drilled well after rescuers found the body of two-year-old Julen Rosello yesterday. - AFP

Spain grieved yesterday after a toddler who fell down a well was found dead in
a tragic end to an intense 13-day rescue operation fraught with danger and
setbacks. Hundreds of engineers, police and miners had been working
round-the-clock under the media glare to try to reach two-year-old Julen
Rosello, who plunged down a narrow, illegal well on January 13 while his
parents prepared lunch nearby in Totalan, a southern town near Malaga.

at 1:25 am (0225 GMT) the rescue team reached the spot where they were looking
for Julen and found the lifeless body of the little one," the central
government's representative in the southern region of Andalusia, Alfonso
Rodriguez Gomez de Celis, wrote on Twitter. "Not another time, no,"
shouted his father Jose when he is believed to have heard the news, an AFP
photographer witnessed. Julen's parents lost another child, Oliver, aged three,
in 2017. The child had cardiac problems.

'It wasn't

Julen made a
"free fall" down to a depth of 71 m when he hit a layer of earth,
Gomez de Celis later told reporters, adding that an investigation was underway
to determine any "potential liabilities" in the two-year-old's death.
A hearse arrived at the mountain site shortly after the news broke to take his
body to a funeral home, with psychologists at the side of Julen's parents.
"All of Spain feels the infinite sadness of Julen's family. We have
followed closely every step to reach him," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
wrote on Twitter, where the news was a trending topic.

In a tweet,
Spain's King Felipe VI extended his "deepest condolences to Julen's whole
family". The Civil Guard police force, whose explosives experts had helped
elite miners in digging a tunnel to reach Julen, tweeted a photo of an eye with
tears pouring out. "Unfortunately, despite so much effort by so many
people, it wasn't possible..." it wrote on its official account.


Spain had been
riveted by the complex search-and-rescue operation, which was fraught with
complications that caused delay upon delay as Julen's distraught parents and
relatives stood by. It was "a colossal mission", Gomez de Celis told
reporters yesterday morning, that involved "moving 85,000 tonnes of earth
in a brief space of time... with the obstacle course that the mountain was
throwing at us".

There had been no
sign of life from the boy but rescuers believed they knew where he was inside
the well. The only evidence of the boy's presence were some strands of hair
that matched his DNA and a bag of candy he had been holding when he fell into
the well. Rescuers were not able to get to Julen via the well he fell down
because it was blocked by a layer of earth, sand and stones believed to have
been dislodged when he tumbled in.

unsuccessfully trying to suck up the blockage using machines, they decided to
dig a vertical shaft parallel to the well. The idea was to secure the shaft
with tubes then take elite miners down in a specially made cage to start
digging a horizontal tunnel to the site where they believe the child was. But
the tubes designed to secure the shaft did not fit, so they had to widen it,
delaying the operation further.

Eventually they
succeeded and expert miners on Thursday began painstakingly digging a
four-metre tunnel to join both channels, with the help of small, controlled
explosions. The miners worked in teams of two and were equipped with oxygen
tanks. Despite the passage of time, the boy's relatives held out hope that
Julen had somehow survived the fall and would be found alive. An autopsy of the
boy is currently being carried out and an investigation into the circumstances
of his fall into the unmarked, illegally-dug well - one of many in Andalusia -
will be carried out by an investigating judge. - AFP