The parents of Beth Anderson and Izzy Squire are living exactly that nightmare after the Sheffield sisters died on Friday during a backpacking holiday in Vietnam.
Their pain mirrors that felt in 2002 by the family of York student Caroline Stuttle after she was robbed and pushed to her death from a 30ft bridge while on a gap year in Australia.
And yesterday Miss Stuttle’s brother, Richard Stuttle, gave a personal insight into the anguish that, in his case, prompted the founding of a charity promoting safer travel for young people.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “This is obviously a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the families involved.
“From our own experience, we know it can be particularly difficult after a loved one dies in another part of the world.
“When Caroline died, I was in France and the rest of the family was in the UK. It can be hard getting hold of information and understanding the role that the time difference plays.”
Miss Anderson, 24, and Miss Squire, 19, died along with a third Briton, 25-year-old former Royal Navy sailor Christian Sloan, while climbing waterfalls near the city of Da Lat in Vietnam’s Lam Dong province.
Paying tribute to the sisters, a spokeswoman for their family said: “Two bright lights have gone out. They shone brightly for 24 and 19 years for everyone who loved and adored them and everyone who came into contact with them.
“Sisters, Beth and Izzy, were living a life of adventure and did so, right to the end.”
Miss Anderson was a contemporary artist while Miss Squire, a talented showjumper, attended Silverdale Sixth Form.
The sisters, from the Ecclesall area of Sheffield, were almost seven weeks into a tour of South East Asia.
It last night remained unclear how Miss Anderson, Miss Squire and Mr Sloan came to die on the waterfalls but local news reports suggest the trio might have slipped.
There was a claim over the weekend that harness equipment being used by the group had failed but suggestions that their tour was operated by an unlicensed guide were quashed by South Yorkshire Police yesterday.
The force said that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office understands that the tour operator and guide were “legitimate” and licensed. A spokeswoman added: “This is an extremely distressing time for the family who are keen to dispel any misinformation about Beth and Isobel.
“The family has asked for their privacy to be respected as they come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.”
Their bodies were recovered downstream from the Datanla waterfalls, a popular attraction with foreign tourists.
Vo Anh Tan, deputy director of the company which manages the waterfalls, said visitors usually start at the top of the tiered site.
Nguyen Van Yen, the deputy chairman of Lam Dong province, said: “When we found the bodies, we found their helmets and safety jackets but no ropes.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are providing support to the families of three British nationals following their deaths near Da Lat, Vietnam.
“Our sympathies are with their families and friends at this difficult time. We are in close contact with local authorities in Vietnam on their behalf.”
Mr Sloan is thought to have come from Deal, in Kent.
In a statement, his family said: “Christian’s death is a very sad loss to us. He was a very popular young man, formerly in the Royal Navy, who had many, many friends not just locally but around the world. He lived for life.”