By Ken MacLeod


FALL RIVER (CBS) – Natalia Gutierrez says she’s done a lot of crying these last 24 hours. “They were like angels,” says the 67-year-old registered nurse.

She’s talking about the first responders who came to her rescue on the Taunton River Sunday, when a lazy, late afternoon kayaking jaunt – went sour in a hurry. “It was like a hurricane,” she says.

But it was beautiful when Gutierrez set out with her brother – and a sister-in-law who can’t swim – both visiting from Puerto Rico.

“They didn’t have a chance,” says river resident Ginny Starvish. “It came up that fast and that bad.”

Starvish shot a 40 second video of the severe thunderstorm strafing the river – the same storm that had just ripped down trees in Attleboro and was about to flood New Bedford.

Severe storm on Taunton River in Freetown (Image credit Ginny Starvish)

“Oh it was nasty,” says Starvish. “The worst one I’ve seen and I’ve been down here for 30 years.”

Gutierrez says the visibility was miserable and she felt certain the wind-driven surf was about to capsize her kayak. She pulled out her cell phone to call 911.

“You couldn’t see anything,” says Gutierrez.

By that time, she was several hundred yards from land, had lost sight of the other kayakers, and remembers praying aloud.

Natalia Gutierrez (WBZ-TV)

“I was crying and praying to God to take us safe to the shore,” she says.

And as rescuers arrived, that’s exactly where the storm winds had blown her. But she was in a panic because she didn’t know what had happened to her brother and sister-in-law.

That’s when first responders learned that some good Samaritans had just guided her relatives to safety on the other side of the river.

“My heart still goes out to them,” says Ginny Starvish. “I can’t imagine the fear they had.”

But Gutierrez prefers to remember the “angels” who helped her.

“I have no words to describe them,” she says in a voice cracking with emotion.

She pledges to keep a closer eye on the forecast in the future, and admits it might be a while before the kayaks leave her front yard again.

Ken MacLeod

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