Surviving Hilary: Local Narrowly Escapes Death In Swift Flood Waters

Carmela Karcher



“I’m thankful to be here.”

Dan Wilson left home for what he thought would be just another work day. 

That’s when he came towards the wash at Little Morongo Road in Desert Hot Springs, an area he’s crossed thousands of times.

An area now unrecognizable.

“The water was moving at a good speed, but it was very low and it’s nothing I haven’t driven through before,” he explained.

But in a blink of an eye, that all changed.

“The wall of water and rocks and stuff that came at the very moment that I passed through the wash was just, I can’t even explain it,” Wilson continued. “It just came with a crack, a huge crack and crash and washed my truck right off of the street like paper…So it had to have been a wave of mud and debris.”

That’s where the nightmare began, gripping his steering wheel for the next two miles. 

“I was traveling backwards and at no point in time was I in a forward position. It was all backwards,” Wilson said. “I know this area pretty well and I’m thinking, ‘OK, at some point, the terrain is going to widen and my vehicle is just going to kind of get pushed out and the water is going to dissipate,’ but it just didn’t. It just got rougher and rougher. And as you can see these rocks, you could feel stuff, these impacts that were happening until the truck rested…I’m watching these boulders float past my vehicle. I mean, float at like 30 miles an hour. So when my truck began to lift up at an angle, I started to kind of panic and I’m thinking, ‘OK, get out.’”

His car lodged in the middle of the current in the dead of night.

It still sits there today, embedded in mud. 

But in that moment, Wilson knew he had to take action. 

“If something breaks my window, the mud and water is going to come rushing in,” Wilson continued. “I struggled to get out of my seat belt, broke my keys off the ring, got my backpack, stuck my hand out of the window and my backpack just zipped open and filled with mud and water and just sucked me right out of the window.”

He then traveled another four miles with nothing but the clothes on his back.

“The impact that I took from my torso is what knocked me unconscious multiple times,” Wilson recalled. “I remember feeling something just for a second and then coming to, over and over again…There were so many tide pools, whirlpools, everywhere and ripping currents everywhere that after a while, once it pulled you under, I started to time it. I would just hold my breath and get ready for the next time that you’d go under.”

During that time, there was only one thought in his mind.

“One thing that scared me is I kept picturing my wife and my daughter looking for me with flashlights,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness. I got to get home.’”

That’s when he started grasping for his life.

“I started to kind of do a waving motion hoping that I would get closer to the edge,” Wilson explained. “I felt trees and I pulled myself onto the bank. Once I got onto the bank down by the railroad tracks closer to Gene Autry overpass, I thought it was over, but then I noticed the water was breaking the banks again from the initial wash. I had to get up to the overpass as fast as I could. It took me about 25 minutes. I just walked up to the first car I saw, completely just emotionally done.”

And that’s when he found his guardian angels.

“The first car didn’t help me,” he said. “The second Hispanic gentleman that was in his truck gave me his work clothes… As I was talking to him, this nice lady with two children in her car, she just opened the door and said, “’Get in.’”

Wilson says he is grateful to the man who gave him dry clothes and to the woman who brought him home. 

Once he finally met eyes with his wife, he fell to his knees and grasped onto her, thankful for another chance.

Suscribe Form Desktop


Submit your suggestions and questions

Nbc Palm Spring Logo

Download our App

Apple Store Logo

Play Store Logo