An Arizona father of eight was swallowed by a sinkhole and killed Friday while a woman watched in horror from her home garden.
Now, family members of victim Guadalupe Gomez Nila, 60, are hailing that woman as a hero for immediately notifying authorities.
"To her: Thank you, you know, because if it hadn’t been for her, we never would’ve found out," Nila's daughter, Sonia Hernandez, told KPNX.
The tragedy unfolded Friday afternoon when the woman, who authorities have not named, saw a flailing set of arms rise into the air and then vanish.
Nila, an irrigation worker for Sossaman Farms in Queen Creek, had been doing routine maintenance, when the massive sinkhole opened up.
"It’s a frightening sight. She didn’t know what happened. She thought he fell," Detective Doug Matteson with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said.
Once the woman realized what had happened, she called authorities. Fire officials arrived to find a 50-foot hole in Earth.
The incident occurred sometime around 3 p.m. However, dangerous conditions prevented authorities from immediately coming to Nila's aid.
Authorities said he either drowned or was suffocated by dirt. His body was finally pulled from the sinkhole around 9 p.m.
Nila's daughter said he was the sole provider for his family. They said the owners of Sossaman Farms have stepped in to provide the family with financial help.
While sinkholes are an unfortunately common occurrence, it's rare that a person is killed by the phenomenon.
However, tragedies do occur. In a famous example, Florida man Jeffrey Bush was asleep in his bedroom in March 2013 when a sinkhole opened beneath him and swallowed him whole.
Thirty-six-year-old Bush's body was never recovered. His home has since been demolished and the hole filled in. However, the sinkhole suddenly opened up again on the vacant property two years later.