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Witnesses describe ‘miracle’ rescue from car submerged in Mesa canal


PHOENIX – When Merrill Brimley heard sirens stop near his East Valley home, he figured he’d check it out.

As the son of a Mesa fire captain, he was drawn by the sound.

Little did he know he would end up capturing video of a dramatic canal rescue in the aftermath of Monday’s massive monsoon storms.

In the 30-second clip, the roof of a car was visible below the surface of the water, and Mesa firefighter Kyle Kuball was in the canal by the vehicle. Kuball dived under and reappeared four seconds later.

For a moment it seemed he was alone, and then he pulled a woman out of the murky water.

Police and fire responders then hauled them out of the canal using a line attached to Kuball.

It is believed the unidentified woman was able to survive because of an air pocket in the submerged vehicle.

Brimley described his experience Wednesday during a Mesa Fire and Medical Department news conference.

“I witnessed as they were trying to determine if she was alive or not,” Brimley said. “When, as they pulled the door open and the one fireman puts his hand in there, he’s saying ‘not viable.’

“Then all of the sudden, I can only imagine she grabs his arm or something, and he says, ‘viable,’ and his instincts were quickly to jump into that car.”

Brimley said it was “a great sight” to see the woman moving.

“It was cool to see the Mesa Fire Department and Mesa Police Department working hand in hand to basically help a miracle really happen,” he said.

During the news conference, Mesa police detective Steve Berry played a clip of the 911 call from inside the car. It was difficult to understand, but the panic in the woman’s voice was apparent.

“You can clearly hear her say that she can’t get out the car, the water is coming up, and she can’t swim,” Berry said.

Dispatchers from the Mesa police and fire department said they could hear the water rising during the call, and it was difficult to figure out the location of the incident. The phone went dead before they knew if responders arrived on time.

Fortunately, another call came in from bystanders who spotted the submerged car while they were driving on Alma School Road near Rio Salado Parkway.

Jason Martin and Nikki Cortes stopped at the scene, and Cortes called 911.

“She gave the 911 instructions very clear and very calm,” Martin said. “She didn’t panic at all. If she didn’t spot the car, who knows what could have happened to the lady inside the vehicle.”

Cortes said she wasn’t as cool as her fiancé described.

“Definitely didn’t feel calm,” she said. “It was scary.”

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