The story of a young girl’s dramatic rescue by an elephant in the 2004 tsunami has been turned into a new stage show.
Author Michael Morpurgo –the man behind the acclaimed War Horse book – was so struck by Amber Owen’s story of survival in the Thailand disaster he wrote the book Running Wild and created a new stage show, currently showing in London.
Eight year old Amber, of Great Linford, was enjoying the first week of a special month-long family holiday in Phuket with her mother, stepfather and family friends when the Boxing Day tsunami struck.
“We had been there for five or six days. There were elephants at the resort, and one, Ning Nong, used to grab my hand. He always picked me,” she recalled.
Over the days Amber and Ning Nong became a familiar sight at the resort, with her perched on his back.
“The morning of the tsunami I played with the elephants on the beach, while my parents were close by, having breakfast.”
But their wonderful Christmas break was about to turn into unimaginable horror .
“Ning Nong knew something was wrong. His owner kept trying to pull him back, but he was trying to move away,” Amber said.
“Other elephants and dogs on the beach did too. They knew something wasn’t right.”
Amber, still with faithful four-year old Ning Nong, was taken away from the beach. As the water rose around them, he kept moving.
“He did a slow run to a performance stage where he left me,” Amber recalls. “It was the last time I saw him. Then I saw my mum, she was in floods of tears. I wasn’t scared, I was more shocked, but safe.”
Together with other holidaymakers, they quickly made tracks to the highest part of the hotel, where the reality of the disaster set in.
The family returned home to Great Linford three days later, but have never forgotten the gentle giant whose quick action undoubtedly saved Amber’s life. Amber, who is now 20, will meet author Michael tomorrow for the first time. Running Wild is currently showing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
“I think it’s really cool,” she says, “There is some talk that it might be turned into a film too, but we’ll have to see,” she says with a laugh.
There may even be a reunion with her four-legged guardian angel – Amber hopes to return to Phuket in January.
“I’ve always looked online to see if I could find more information about him, and he did survive. The tsunami affected so many people, I’m lucky that I made it home safely. He saved my life. ”