9-year-old girl credits life jacket for saving her life on Salt River

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-24 22:50:36-04

A nine-year-old girl is crediting her life jacket for saving her life after she was knocked off her tube on the Salt River.

Elly Allen was at the river Saturday enjoying a day out with her family when around noon things took a turn for the worst as they headed down the water.

"We were having a wonderful time, and we were coming around a corner, and that's where the heavy rapids are," said Daniel Erler, Elly's grandfather.

The water was moving so fast it knocked the family of six into the water.

"We all flipped over several times," he said.

When he came back up, he noticed Elly wasn't there.

"I thought she was underwater and I knew I had to get back to her immediately because in my mind I knew I had to get back to her immediately because, in my mind, I was going to have to start CPR on her," Erler said. 

Elly had been pushed several yards in just a matter of seconds.  

"I couldn't see, and I tried getting up, the rapids were holding me down, and I got stuck under the trees, and I tried pulling myself up," she said.

But the water was too strong.  

Even though she's a good swimmer, she says she never would've made it if it wasn't for her life jacket. It was the only thing she says that was keeping her head above water.

"If I didn't have that life jacket I would've died," Elly said.

As she cried for help, a Good Samaritan showed up and tried to pull her from under the trees, but the rushing waters were so rough he was having trouble getting her out.

Erler fought to get back upstream; the two were finally able to get her out. 

Back on shore, Elly's mom called the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office who was on scene with a matter of minutes.

"Within two minutes MCSO was overhead with a helicopter, I'd just pulled her out of the water got her to the side, and they were up circling overhead with their helicopter," Erler said. "They go above and beyond out there.  I give them a lot of credit."

First responders checked out Elly and her family. She says she is grateful she had her life jacket on.

"If I didn't have it I would've died, and I wouldn't be able to be here right now," she said.

Her grandfather says this should serve as a reminder to parents to always make sure kids wear life jackets when they're around water.

"Even if they complain, have them wear a life jacket it saved my granddaughter's life," he said. 

Back on June 3, a man drowned near the Blue Point Bridge, the same area where Elly was pulled under.

The 30-year-old man was trying to retrieve a floating tube when he reportedly became exhausted and went under. His friends pulled him out of the water and administered CPR, but he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.