Family survives nightmare trip through Durango, Mexico
Jan 4, 2010
Jan 6, 2010
A family in Minneapolis is reunited after a couple falls victim to violent crime while on vacation. Al and Susan Thill have been making their yearly trips into Mexico since the 70's. And this year's trip was smooth sailing until they crossed the border at El Paso. That’s where their fond memories of Mexico would change forever. Joe Fryer has the story.
Airports are often the scene of emotional moments, but few could top the reunion that took place Sunday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. "I'm happy they're here," Ashley Thill said while holding back tears. "But I could have lost my parents." Her parents, Al and Susan Thill, were making their annual drive from western Wisconsin to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last week. But they didn't get past northern Mexico. While driving through the north-central Mexican state of Durango on New Years Eve, the Thills said they were chased, first by one car that eventually disappeared, and then by another car. "It's like you were in the movies," Al Thill said. He drove to the border of Durango and Chihuahua, hoping to get help from inspectors who work at the crossing. But when he got out of his car, he said the suspect put a gun to his head, forcing him to the ground. "I just laid flat out, face down, and that's when he shot me in my arm," Al Thill said. The gunman then pointed a gun at Susan, who was still sitting in the car. "It was so traumatic," she said. "And then you see your husband lying there and I didn't know if he was going to be -- oh, it was awful." The gunman drove off with their car and Al was rushed to a hospital several miles away. They were featured in local newspapers and overwhelmed by the kindness of the community. "They had read about us and they wanted to meet us and tell us they were so sorry," Susan Thill said. Drug-related violence -- including carjackings -- in Mexico has increased greatly during the past few years. The U.S. Department of State says Americans should be extra cautious when driving through parts of northern Mexico. The bodies of six men -- including California educator Agusutin Roberto Salcedo -- were found Thursday in Durango. According to CNN, the group was eating in a restaurant Wednesday night when armed men barged in, forced everyone to the floor and abducted six men. As for the Thills, they flew home Sunday. Al and Susan were supposed to spend one month in Puerto Vallarta and another month at a different resort in Mexico. Their Puerta Vallerta plans have been cancelled but if Al recovers in time, they may return to finish their vacation. But this time they'll fly.