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Tourist killed, 2nd injured after being shoved into ravine near famous German castle were reportedly U. of. I graduates

Castle Neuschwanstein, a 19th century creation by Bavaria's fairy tale king Ludwig II and world renowned tourist attraction, is pictured in Hohenschwangau near Fuessen, southern Germany, on Monday, May 9, 2011. Authorities say a man has attacked two women near Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany, killing one. Police say the women were attacked Wednesday afternoon near the popular tourist site and the man fled but was arrested.

A woman who died after being shoved into a ravine near Germany’s famous Neuschwanstein castle Wednesday was reportedly a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Another woman who was shoved into the ravine and allegedly sexually assaulted but survived is also a recent U. of I. grad, the Daily Mail reported.

Authorities in Germany have not released the names of the victims. A 30-year-old American man has been arrested in the attack, authorities said.

A U. of I. spokeswoman said the university had not independently verified the identities of the two women attacked but confirmed to the Sun-Times on Friday that the names reported by the Mail are the same as those of two students who graduated in May.

The Sun-Times has not been able to independently confirm the identities of the victims. The paper does not publish names of sexual assault survivors.

No one answered the door at the suburban family home of one of the U. of I. grads on Friday.

The incident near the popular tourist attraction happened Wednesday afternoon near the Marienbruecke, a bridge over a gorge close to the castle that offers a famous view of Neuschwanstein.

The man met the two female tourists, ages 21 and 22, on a hiking path and lured them onto a trail that leads to a viewpoint, police said in a statement.
“The younger of the two women was attacked by the suspect,” said police spokesman Holger Stabik. “The older one tried to rush to her aid, was then choked by the suspect and subsequently pushed down a slope.”

The assailant then appears to have attempted to sexually assault the 21-year-old before pushing her down the slope as well, police said. She fell nearly 165 feet, ending up close to her friend.

A mountain rescue team reached both women. The 22-year-old was “responsive” and taken to a hospital, police said; a helicopter carried the 21-year-old with serious injuries to a different hospital, and she died there overnight.

The suspect left the scene but was arrested nearby. Bystander video posted online showed police leading away a handcuffed man in a T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap.

Eric Abneri, a recent business graduate from the University of Pittsburgh who took the video, said the man appeared to have scratches across his face.

“He did not say a single word. He didn’t open his mouth. He didn’t mumble,” Abneri told The Associated Press. “He just walked with the police, and that was it.”

Abneri said he and friends reached the scenic overlook as a helicopter arrived, and they saw rescuers lower themselves down to the victims.

“I’m honestly absolutely stunned someone is still alive from this. It is like falling from the top of an absolute cliff,” he said.

Abneri described it as “a very, very difficult rescue because of those cliffs and because the helicopter came mere feet above the tree line at the top of the hill.”

“They did an unbelievable job,” he said.

Police said the man they arrested was American and described him also as a tourist; prosecutors said the women were fellow U.S. citizens. The 22-year-old remained hospitalized Thursday, according to prosecutors.

Authorities didn’t identify the suspect or the victims, or give more details.

Police said a judge in nearby Kempten on Thursday ordered the suspect held pending a potential indictment — a process that can take months — and he was taken to jail. He is under investigation on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and a sexual offense.

Police said they and prosecutors were focusing on trying to reconstruct exactly what happened and called for any witnesses to come forward.

Neuschwanstein, in southern Bavaria close to Austria’s border, is one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions.

It is the most famous of the castles built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century. Construction started in 1869 but was never completed. Ludwig died in 1886.

Contributing: AP


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