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Family, witnesses speak out after teen dies when trapped under boat in Lake Havasu

Posted at 10:22 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-10 01:22:18-04

A weekend of celebration ended in tragedy, after a monsoon storm wreaked havoc at Lake Havasu.

Folks who were out there on Labor Day weekend, on September 4, say six foot waves and wind contributed to flipping a boat on the lake, trapping a 17-year-old girl inside.

Daniel Murrieta was on a boat with friends when he saw a boat flipped over in the distance.

"It was just a nightmare. It was just 45 minutes of hell," Murrieta told ABC15.

Daniel Murrieta says last Sunday started off as a beautiful day, but suddenly everything changed.

"You just saw the dust rolling in, rolling in, and we were just like, here it comes, here it comes, hold on. It was rainy…windy. The waves were high. Very high. I would describe them as six feet," he added.

Murrieta says that's when they look over and see a boat flipped upside down, and a family desperately trying to flip it back.

“We heard them yelling and they said that they're missing one person. They don’t know where she is."

That girl was 17-year-old Michelle Perez.

"She was my daughter, my oldest daughter," Michelle’s mom, Marisol Vera, told ABC15.

Vera says she is heartbroken that her daughter is gone.

She says Michelle was a senior in high school who was full of life, and full of passion for helping others.

"She wanted to be a lawyer and she wanted to help the community," Vera added.

Murrieta says he and his crew immediately threw their life jackets over to the stranded family. Murrieta then jumped in, swimming under the boat.

"We tried, we tried. Everybody tried. There wasn't enough people. Nobody stopped to help," said Vera.

Law enforcement eventually arrived and helped them flip the boat over.

At the time, Michelle was still trapped inside.

Javier Romero, who was in the boat with Murrieta, swam under the boat and pulled Michelle out.

"It was late for her because she spent more than 30 minutes under the water. I couldn't help her. I couldn't do anything to save her," said Michelle’s mom.

Vera is hailing Murrieta and everyone on his boat — Javier Romero, Audrie Perez, Scarlett Doty, Adrian Cortez, Alfonso Cortez — as heroes.

"That family was our angels because nobody stopped. Nobody wanted to stop and help us," Michelle’s mom told ABC15.

"I just did the humane thing. Honestly,” added Murrieta.

Murrieta has since started an online fundraiser to help with Michelle’s funeral expenses.

"I just want to help this girl's family and prevent things like this from happening," said Murrieta.

Vera wants to bring awareness to the importance of learning about boating safety, and always being prepared.

"I love her, and we are heartbroken,” she told ABC15.