Sole survivor recalls Antelope Canyon flash flood tragedy - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Sole survivor recalls Antelope Canyon flash flood tragedy

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Pancho Quintana Pancho Quintana
File: Antelope Canyon. File: Antelope Canyon.
PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

Over 16 years ago a flash flood in a cramped canyon near Page, Arizona claimed the lives of eleven tourists who were swept away in the torrential rapids with only one man who survived.

Pancho Quintana recalls the 1997 tragedy that claimed the lives of ten people in Antelope Canyon.

"It just wasn't my time to go, you know?" said Quintana.

It was August 12th 1997 when a flash flood ripped through Antelope Canyon when Quintana, a tour leader was in the canyon with members of his tour group taking pictures.

"The canyon just started shaking the walls, the contour of the canyon was rocking back and forth" said Quintana.

The group tried to climb to safety, Quintana and two french tourists clung to the side of the canyon wall.

"The water kept rising and rising and rising up to the ledge and I thought, we're next it's just a matter of time before it sucks us down through there" said Quintana.

The water pushed them off the ledge, Quintana sucked away from the others farther down deeper in the canyon.

Quintana recalled being pulled in the fast moving water, "I tumbled and tumbled and held my breath which seemed like eternity and it was time to die right there. Everything got quiet I saw bubbles but didn't hear rushing water and I thought here it is."

Eventually he was able to pull himself to safety. That's when he learned that of eleven people in the canyon that day he was the only survivor.

"I felt like why were you picked to live? What separates you from the rest? Did I know the canyon? Was I a good swimmer? Everything went through my mind on why you survived"

Quintana has struggled for years with those questions.

"I had a friend of mine say when are you going to let it go and I said I don't know how do you let it go?" said Quintana.

Just recently he found his answer. He wrote a book about his life and what happened that day. He says by writing it all down he was able to come to terms with what happened and says it was the most healing thing he's done. His message to his readers, you can conquer any difficulty in life

"If I'm going to stay here in this life I need to figure out how I'm going to live it" said Quintana.

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