A New York City woman visiting Thailand broke her spine when she fell 150 feet off a cliff in an attempt to escape a sexual attack by a man claiming to be a tour guide, who continued to assault her as she lay paralyzed on the ground, authorities said.
Hannah Gavios, 23, had only been in Thailand for a day when she got lost on Railay Beach in the resort of Krabi on Thursday.
Unable to find her way in the pitch-black darkness, the English teacher ducked into a local tourist shop to ask for help and a man there offered to show her back to her hotel at about 11 p.m., she told the Daily Mail.
“I didn’t get the best feeling about him but I was tired and wanted to get home. I’d been travelling for 16 hours so I guess I wasn’t feeling myself,” Gavios told the Mail.
The pair headed into the jungle and started climbing up a hilly path, where the man, identified as 28-year old Apai Raingworchai, attacked the young woman, officials said.
She bit his ear and ran, unaware that she was heading off a cliff, smashing her head and gravely injuring her back in the fall.
The young woman told the Mail she tried to remain calm after her alleged attacker discovered her on the ground below, saying: "Whenever I screamed he was choking me so I had to try to keep cool and stay friendly with him."
Gavios told the Mail that when Raingworchai masturbated on her and insisted on “no police,” but after a few hours he left and returned with other people who alerted authorities.
The Bayside, Queens, native was taken to Bangkok Hospital Phuket, where she reportedly remained in recovery after undergoing surgery to her spine.
“She is recovering but needs to stay in hospital at least one more week," Dr. Manp Trinarong told Phuket News on Friday, the day after her fall. "She can move her legs but she cannot move them very much."
Ao Nang police said Raingworchai is not a registered tour guide, identifying him as a “mentally stable” homeless man who tested negative for drugs or alcohol at the time of his arrest, local media reported.
He reenacted his interactions with Gavios for police, telling them he made a sexual pass at her but said he did not rape her.
Raingworchai was charged with assault causing injury and sexual assault, authorities said. He was being held at the Krabi Provincial court, the newspaper reported.
"There is no question what he did was wrong and unacceptable," Col Winai told the Phuket News. "I am sure his punishment will be severe."
Gavios was working in Vietnam as an English teacher at the time of the incident. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology last year and worked as freelance graphic designer before moving abroad, her professional website said.
“She loves yoga, the outdoors and making art,” according to her website.
Loved ones took to social media after the attack, stunned that Gavios was at the heart of such a brutal attack.
“This f****** perv hurt my friend. I ask the Thai government that justice be served,” one friend wrote on Facebook, sharing a photo he said was Raingworchai. “Get well soon Hannah Gavios."
Others noted they were confident that she would pull through.
“She has a long road of recovery ahead of her but she will most definitely get through this, one of the strongest people I know and she has love and support coming in from everywhere,” another friend posted, saying: “We are all wishing for her best recovery and sending her our love and prayers.”
The attack will not keep Gavios from continuing the work she loved, friend Aria Modanlo told InsideEdition.com.
"She has been in Asia for a few months now and is absolutely loving the opportunity to teach abroad," Modanlo said. "Even after this horrible situation, she would still like to stay and be able to teach!"
Gavios' resiliency amazed Modanlo, who said his friend was never one to let anything get the best of her.
"I just was amazed that even after falling down the cliff she was still able to fight him off!" he said. "I've never seen her let anyone or anything thing let her down and this is just another example that even with all the injuries she had, she wouldn't let that stop her from getting this guy off of her."
After learning what happened to his friend of 10 years, Modanlo frantically tried to make contact, he said, noting he was able to reach her over Facebook.
Though she was overwhelmed, the young woman — whose mother and father traveled to Thailand to be by her side — remained positive, he said.
"She told me she is taking it day-by-day but is getting better," he said. "She is such an optimistic person and always brings out the best in people.
"I've never met anyone before that always finds a way to make the best of any given situation. Hannah is caring, kind, generous and overall such an amazing person and I'm so glad to call her a friend."