Relatives reflect on men who were swept away in ABQ arroyo

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

As a boy growing up in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, Alexander Corrie was a voracious reader and a natural musician. At the age of 7 he got his first guitar and his passion followed him throughout his life. He played soccer in school and loved reading books about scientific theories and Stephen Hawking – topics he would then spend hours discussing with his father.

As he grew up Alexander struggled with mental health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and “alcohol was his demon,” his father Jeremy Corrie said.

Last week, the 31-year-old was one of three men swept away as torrential rains rushed through the diversion channels during a sudden storm.

Jeremy, now in town to arrange his son’s memorial, said he plans on visiting the spot, near Pennsylvania and Constitution NE, where Alexander was last seen.

“It’s kind of a closure thing. It’s just putting the pieces together,” Jeremy said. “Not being in touch with him for the past two weeks, not knowing what happened … the not knowing is rough. What was going through his mind, where was his head at, who was he with?”

Nowhere else to go

On the afternoon of July 20, multiple people called 911 to say they saw people floating in the Embudo Arroyo as the water began to surge. Officials said the floodwaters were some of the highest they’ve ever seen at 6 feet high and moving at 25 feet per second.

Alexander Corrie, 31 (Courtesy of Jeremy Corrie)

Albuquerque Fire Rescue swift water teams tried in vain to rescue the men. Then, they turned their efforts to finding their bodies.

After a two-day search, Alexander, 32-year-old Stephen Camp and a third man who has not yet been identified were recovered from a washout across town near Tramway and Roy. It was the deadliest such incident in the agency’s history.

“It’s so sad to think that these people just vanished …,” Jeremy said. “Their story may not be a great story but they’re still people, they still had a life, still had a history. There are probably reasons why they ended up there.”

Reflecting on what might have happened, Jeremy thinks his son likely was in the arroyo because he had nowhere else to go. While a flash flood advisory blared on phones throughout the area, family members said neither Alexander, nor Camp, had phones and likely would have been caught unaware.

Jeremy said the last time he’d talked to his son, Alexander had borrowed a stranger’s phone and called him from the University of New Mexico Hospital. He said Alexander was getting medication for his mental health issues, and feeling hopeful about a getting a job with a friend. He sounded happy and like everything was being taken care of, Jeremy said.

“Now looking back if I had just known I could have gotten him,” Jeremy said. “Or my brother would have gone to pick him up, got him a place to stay.”

‘A really great heart’

Camp, a barber who got divorced last year, also seemed to have fallen on hard times.

Stephen Camp, 32 (Courtesy Joia Westwood)

His older sister, Joia Westwood, said the last time she talked to her brother a couple of months ago he told her he was staying with friends. Camp – the father of two girls, ages 6 and 12 – loved his family deeply and would frequently have lunch with his mother, Westwood said.

She said Camp was a practical jokester who would delight in making everyone laugh and was a diehard Washington Football Team fan. He followed in his hairdresser mother’s footsteps by going to school to become a barber – a trade he practiced in Albuquerque and Arizona for years.

Westwood said when her brother’s ex-wife called her – putting her on speaker phone as an officer delivered the tragic news – she was shocked to hear that he was in the arroyo.

“We grew up (in Albuquerque) we knew better than that,” Westwood said. “This is all confusing to me.”

Now she’s trying to help her mother cope with the loss. The family has started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the funeral.

“He was really giving, he had really great manners and a really great heart,” Westwood said. “He was full of life, that’s what is making it so hard.”

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