Survivors recount amazing escapes from earthquake in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — A tree branch saved a maintenance mechanic from the collapsing building where a dozen co-workers died when last week’s earthquake rocked central Mexico. A slap across the face startled a dazed father back to his senses, spurring him to carry his critically injured daughter to safety. Neighbors, co-workers and passers-by pulled people from the jaws of death, while taxis, private cars and even buses rushed them to hospitals.

Amid the endless tragedies from the magnitude 7.1 quake that killed more than 300 people, there were incredible stories of survival.

Conrad Vazquez Martinez, a 67-year-old mechanic, was on the roof of the four-story laboratory building where he worked in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood when the quake hit at midday Sept. 19.

“I wanted to run to get to people, but the building was collapsing behind me,” Vazquez Martinez said Wednesday as he lay in a bed at the Magdalena de las Salinas hospital, recovering from a broken hip and leg. “I ran and ran, and with one jump I grabbed a branch that grew close to the building.”

“Another employee and I had once talked about that branch. We said, ‘If there’s ever a problem here, we’ll jump out here,’” he remembered. “Unfortunately it was old, and it broke.”

 

But Vazquez Martinez never let go of the branch, and it proved a life saver. He fell through the lower branch and onto the sidewalk in front of a neighboring building, breaking his hip and leg. And then a second miracle: A metal balcony grill fell over him, partly shielding him from the direct impact of rubble that tumbled over him.

The tree branch, which he still gripped in one hand, poked out of the debris to give him a trickle of air.

“The metal grate had a screen, so the chunks of concrete didn’t fall directly on me,” he said. “When everything stopped falling, I tried to stretch myself out, but the concrete chunks felt heavier and heavier, they were pressing me, heavier all the time.”

His face, mouth and nose full of rubble, Vazquez Martinez noticed that a jug of water he had on the roof had fallen nearby. “God is so great, that even water was provided.”

He called and whistled, and eventually co-workers found him and dug him out.

 

“Losing my co-workers was what most hurts,” he said. “My hope was to get out and save people, but I couldn’t, I failed.”

“But I did one thing. I closed the valve on the gas tank,” Vazquez Martinez added, recalling his actions in the first moments when the earthquake started. “It was bomb there,” he said of the big heating gas tank on the roof. “It may have saved the whole neighborhood.”

Dr. Fryda Medina, director of the hospital where he is being treated, said that on the day of the quake, patients were delivered by volunteers in private cars and taxis. Two patients were brought aboard buses. The staff, and even retirees, all volunteered to work through the night and following days, when over 300 injured from the earthquake were brought in. Only one died, she said.

“It was in those moments that one feels the spirit we have in Mexico, the solidarity,” Medina said at the hospital, which is operated by Mexico’s Social Security Institute.

There were other incredible escapes from death. American photojournalist Wesley Bocxe and his wife, Elizabeth, made it to the roof of their 10-story apartment building when the quake started. His wife was killed when the floors underneath pancaked into a pile of rubble, but Bocxe somehow survived the plunge, though he was seriously injured.

Local media quoted one woman who said that she and two relatives took refuge in the bathroom of their upper floor apartment, and the room — apparently constructed more sturdily than the rest of the building — plunged intact to near street level. They were able to escape with the help of neighbors.

The quake was a nightmare for a family of four in the Iztapalapa neighborhood on Mexico City’s gritty east side.

The father and mother rushed out of their home with their 9-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son when the shaking started, only to have a six-foot (two-meter) perimeter wall fall on the children. The debris crushed the girl’s pelvis, damaged her liver and caused internal bleeding. A broken bone in the boy’s leg poked though his skin and blood spurted out.

The father, who asked that the family not be identified by name for privacy reasons, said he was shocked into a stupor by the sight but a quick slap from his wife brought him back to his senses.

“When I saw her in the rubble, her eyes glazed unconscious, I went into shock,” he said Wednesday at the Magdalena de la Salinas hospital. “I picked her up … I thought she was dead. Her mother slapped me in the face because I was totally gone. I turned to her and she said, ‘We have to save her, she’s still alive!’”

The mother helped their son, who was crawling, to get to the street, and then she rushed into traffic to stop a car.

“I stood in front (of the car) and pounded on the hood, I said, ‘Please, I beg you, help us get to the hospital,’” she recalled. “The man stopped, opened his doors … I don’t know how we got there, but I owe that man my children’s lives.”

Once they got to a hospital, police officers stationed outside saw the girl’s condition and quickly offered to summon a helicopter, which flew both children to the Magdalena de la Salinas.

The girl is wrapped in sheets on her hospital bed, her father holding her hand. She has talked to psychologists, and now can calmly recall the moments of terror.

“In my brain, I saw the earth cracking open. It was an illusion,” she said. “When I went through that scare, I thought I wasn’t going to live.”

News Videos
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing