Family of local veteran who died in flood shares story as a warning to others

New Mexico News

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – After spending more than two decades serving in the army, a veteran died in a flash flood in Lincoln County over the weekend. Now her family is sharing her story in hopes of preventing another tragedy.

A weekend of celebration and remembrance, took a tragic turn Sunday afternoon. “I lost her Sunday at 2:26 when she floated,” says James Garrett.

Forty-seven-year-old Heather Garrett died after getting caught in flash flood waters in Lincoln County. “This is a full-size truck and it was jacked up, anybody out there, do not get in that current,” James says.

Garrett was born and raised in Louisiana. She and her husband moved to New Mexico two years ago to retire.

She was an Army veteran who did three tours in Iraq and served as a combat medic. Her family says she was known for thinking of others before herself. “That’s all she’s done her whole military career is saved lives, that’s her whole thing, she’d give you the shirt off her back,” James says.

Her husband says Sunday, as it started to rain and hail, they got a call from a stranded neighbor. He says they took separate trucks to cross an arroyo to get to him, but as the rain picked up, they decided to turn around. He says Heather tried to cross first. “The water was 6 inches, maybe a foot, no more and she went through it the truck stalled out she got caught 3 quarters of the way across,” he says.

James says he tried to get his wife to get out of the truck but she decided to stay while he went to get a backhoe to try to pull her out. It was a mile away. By the time he got back, she and the truck were gone. “Neighbors saw her, saw her in the vehicle flashing brake lights,” he says.

When search and rescue crews found the truck, the driver’s window was rolled down, her husband guessed she crawled out when the truck came to a stop. “From that point, the current took her and we found her about 4 and half miles up the road,” he says.

Her family hopes someone will learn from their loss. Being new to New Mexico, they say neighbors had told them about the danger of floods in the area. But even those neighbors say they have never seen anything like they did on Sunday. “If this saves one more life I’ll be proud of her,” he says.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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