MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. - An 83-year-old woman died after a boating incident on Lake Pleasant on May 8, but those who did survive the incident were saved by a brave family who is now being recognized.
Kurt Walker with Peoria Fire and Medical says when crews arrived, they found a woman who had been thrown out of the boat from a "large wave from the wind." Others were thrown from the boat but she was the only person badly injured.
The woman was taken out of the water and loaded onto a rescue boat. She was then taken to the hospital in very critical condition, Walker says. She died not long after and her name is Rosario Benitez and family says she was visiting from Mexico.
This marked the third week in a row that crews responded to Lake Pleasant for a serious incident.
Prior to this incident, 20-year-old Neria Aranbayev was found on the night of April 24, about 21 feet below the surface of Lake Pleasant. A week later, on May 1, an unidentified man's body was found 25-feet underwater near Jet Ski Point.
‘Who knows what would’ve happened’
Weeks later, a Glendale family is being recognized for their efforts in helping to rescue three others incident, while trying to rescue Benitez before she passed away.
An off-duty Glendale Fire Captain and his family were enjoying Mother’s Day evening on their pontoon boat when they happened to come upon the science. All six of the family members jumped into action and on May 17, they were each honored by the Peoria Fire and Medical Department.
"While visiting Lake Pleasant, you immediately responded to an adult in the water who was not breathing. You immediately responded while putting yourself in danger knowing the victim needed help," said the Peoria Fire Chief.
The two men in the Valverde family are first responders and put their skills to use after a boat ride turned into a rescue.
"They took a big wave on, knocked her off. The way she was positioned in the boat, her leg was entangled, and she couldn’t keep her head above water. She was wearing a flotation device, but it was pushed up because of the current," said Anthony Valverde, a Glendale Fire Captain. "We all grabbed a piece of her body and held on to her until the fireboat got there, and we were able to pass her off."
Christian Valverde with the Buckeye Fire Department adds, "I was on the floor hanging over the boat, just holding her arms. So just kind of trying to keep her up in that safe area."
Peoria Fire officials say it was extremely windy that day, calling it white cap conditions and the waves were ferocious. They were able to keep the woman’s head above water until the on-duty rescue boat arrived. The three survivors were taken to shore on the Valverdes’ boat.
Devastated and terrified, Micaela Valverde calmed the victims who spoke Spanish and helped them communicate with investigators.
"I'm glad we were able to help the rest of them because they were in a really small boat, taking in a lot of water and who knows what would’ve happened if we hadn’t came around that corner and saw them," Micaela said.