Phoenix family survived Irma thanks to kindness of strangers

Posted: Updated:
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Phoenix family stuck in the Virgin Islands when Hurricane Irma hit is very thankful for the kindness of strangers.

Lori Bonnell and her son Dustin Vesey had been hired to house-sit a home in St. John for the summer. But as Irma approached, it became apparent the pair might not be safe in the wooden home.

Desperate to find more reliable shelter, they posted an SOS on Facebook. David Thomeczek and his wife Julie answered the post, inviting the family to stay in their home reinforced with concrete.

Even though they had access to a bunker, the two say they felt “sheer panic.”

“Specks of dirt and dust were falling on us,” says Bonnell. The family left the bunker thinking the ceiling would collapse.

They moved to a laundry room where they struggled to keep the door closed to protect them from flying debris.

“We couldn’t see anything other than palm trees flying by,” says Bonnell. “All three of us, my husband, Dustin and I, up against the door with all of our might holding.”

Hours later they emerged from the home to find shattered glass, broken wooden beams, downed trees and overturned cars.

“I am grateful to [Thomeczek],” says Bonnell.  She says the homeowners that took them in also hosted about seven other people during the storm.

Vesey was so overwhelmed by the community’s generosity, he’s been forever transformed.

“For me going forward, that's now to be expected out of me,’ says Vesey. “Those kinds of actions are something  you can always offer.”

The family is now staying at a hotel in Puerto Rico. They’re encouraging people to donate to relief efforts to help the community that helped them.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Featured VideoMore>>

  • Tuesday @ 9 p.m. on 3TV: Flooded cars in Arizona

    Tuesday @ 9 p.m. on 3TV: Flooded cars in Arizona

    Thousands of flooded hurricane cars are already in Arizona. Can viewers spot the red flags of a water-logged wreck? 3 On Your Side puts them to the test - Tuesday at 9 p.m. on 3TV.

    More >

    Thousands of flooded hurricane cars are already in Arizona. Can viewers spot the red flags of a water-logged wreck? 3 On Your Side puts them to the test - Tuesday at 9 p.m. on 3TV.

    More >
  • Watch: Georgia Dome imploded after 25 years of use

    Watch: Georgia Dome imploded after 25 years of use

    Monday, November 20 2017 8:52 AM EST2017-11-20 13:52:16 GMT

    The only facility in the world to host the Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four has been reduced to rubble. A little more than 25 years after opening, the Georgia Dome, former home of the Atlanta Falcons and the scene for several historic sporting events, was imploded.

    More >

    The only facility in the world to host the Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four has been reduced to rubble. A little more than 25 years after opening, the Georgia Dome, former home of the Atlanta Falcons and the scene for several historic sporting events, was imploded.

    More >
  • Thousands come together to celebrate lost loved ones in 'Light Up a Life' event

    Thousands come together to celebrate lost loved ones in 'Light Up a Life' event

    Monday, November 20 2017 8:16 AM EST2017-11-20 13:16:00 GMT
    Thousands gathered Sunday to celebrate those loved ones at an event called "Light Up a Life." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Thousands gathered Sunday to celebrate those loved ones at an event called "Light Up a Life." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Thanksgiving and the holidays are usually a time to be with family and that can be tough for families who have recently lost loved ones. Thousands gathered Sunday to celebrate those loved ones at an event called "Light Up a Life."

    More >

    Thanksgiving and the holidays are usually a time to be with family and that can be tough for families who have recently lost loved ones. Thousands gathered Sunday to celebrate those loved ones at an event called "Light Up a Life."

    More >