Couple who narrowly missed deadly flash flooding speaks out
An Ahwatukee couple who first arrived at the scene where 14 people were swept away by a fast-moving river of mud and debris are speaking out about their experience.
In all, nine of the victims died, and one is still missing, as of Monday.
Carlos Dezubeldia and Ali McNeil were hiking to the very swimming hole where the victims were swept away. Instead of having a day of fun near Payson, they came across the gruesome scene.
"We were hiking," said McNeil. "We were on our way up and there was a couple that said, 'hey, I don't know if you want to go up. There they found a body'. I was like, 'I'm in the health care field, I want to see if I can help.'"
They said it was just luck they weren't in the swimming area when flood-water came rushing down the canyon.
"Everybody was just surprised," said Dezubeldia. "It was horrible."
Both McNeil and Dezubeldia have medical training, and stayed to help do whatever they could.
"Helicopters couldn't even get down there," said McNeil. "Search crews couldn't get down there. Only very few could. We were already down there at that point, and we offered our assistance and they said absolutely."
"Even the Search and Rescue people looked in their faces -- you could tell they were just in awe," said Dezubeldia. "They were caught very off guard, they didn't really know what to do."
Both Dezubeldia and McNeil feel fortunate, as a last minute change in plans to accommodate a stop for food may have saved their lives.
"With the timeline, we would have been in it," said Dezubeldia. "We would have been right smack dab in it if we didn't stop for lunch."
"We would have been there," said McNeal. "Had we not stopped to eat, we would have been in that. So we're thanking our lucky stars. We very well could have perished."