LOS LUNAS — It’s been more than a month since Sergio Marquez was swallowed up by a sinkhole caused by erosion near the Los Lunas Main Street river bridge, but the trauma of the incident continues to have long-lasting effects on him and his family.

“I literally thought I was going to die,” said Sergio. “It was pretty scary down there.”

Sergio Marquez
Sinkhole survivor

Sergio, 40, and his son, Felix, 22, were enjoying an evening bike ride along N.M. 6 in Los Lunas on Saturday, May 13, when a sinkhole suddenly opened up beneath him.

“We felt a big shake and then the sidewalk just crumbled underneath him,” Felix said. “He tried to get out, but he couldn’t bike fast enough as it crumbled.”

Sergio clung onto some pipes amid falling debris and the strong current to avoid being swept away.

“That’s my fear, deep water,” said Sergio. “I’m not a very good swimmer, probably the worst swimmer ever and being scared of it doesn’t help.

“It caught me by surprise; it was real scary,” he continued. “When I first fell in, my son tried to reach for me right away. As soon as he tried, a huge chunk (of compacted dirt) broke off and hit me in my face. After that, I told him to get back because anytime he’d try and reach for me, more dirt kept falling in.”

From inside the sinkhole, Marquez could see how extensive the erosion was, saying it looked like it had been hollow for sometime.

“As cars were going by, more stuff kept falling in. I thought eventually the cars were going to fall in too because there were chunks coming down everywhere and everything around me was shaking and falling,” said Sergio.

While trapped, Felix called 911 and tried to flag down passing cars for help.

“I kept telling him ‘call 911!’ and he said ‘I did, Dad!’ I kept saying, ‘Where are they?’ I heard two sirens go by all while my son is yelling for help, waving, almost getting run over trying to stop people,” he said.

After 15 minutes of trying to get help, three passersby took notice and came to Marquez’s aid. The rescuers, Heaven Chavez-Rodriguez, Jacque Rodriguez and Josh Baca-Torres, along with Felix were able to pull him out.

Sergio was trapped in the sinkhole for more than 30 minutes. He described finally being freed from the sinkhole as “the best feeling ever.”

“That night I didn’t know what to think,” said Sergio, “especially because my son lost his uncle who he was close to back in Oklahoma a couple years ago to a heart attack. I said to him, ‘You know what son, I don’t want to leave you like that.’”

The night of the incident Marquez’s family took him to the emergency room, but only found out after visiting his regular doctor a week later that he had sustained a concussion. To date, Marquez said his head still hurts and he forgets things a lot more now.

“The doctor said there is some medicine they can try, but it’s just experimental right now,” said Marquez’s wife, Joline Trujillo. “We held off, but later on if it’s still not good, we can try it.”

Marquez, who works in the construction industry, also sustained a foot injury in the fall, which has kept him out of work since.

“It still hurts,” he said. “Every time I step on it too hard or bend it a certain way, I can feel my bones rubbing against each other.”

Marquez is still waiting to be seen by an orthopedic specialist. His wife said their insurance is not accepted where they are supposed to go, so they have to wait on a referral from UNM Hospital to come through.

“We’re learning a lot of things that should have been done, were not done,” said Trujillo, regarding the accident. “It’s putting a big strain on us financially.”

Marquez’s stepdaughter, Carol Peck recently created a GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/f/help-the-maquez-trujillo-family) for the family to help alleviate some of the financial strain.

She wrote in the fundraiser description, “(Marquez) has had to miss work for the last month and the orthopedic doctors say he needs to be off his foot for at least six more weeks. Sergio is the main breadwinner for the family, so missing work has been extremely rough for them. Bills are stacking up, and without an income in the foreseeable future we need some help.”

Peck said the family appreciates any donations, shares and well-wishes.

Trujillo said they have also recently contacted a lawyer and are in the early stages of building a civil case.

“Thank God he’s alive, but he’s hurt and it’s affecting everyone in the family,” said Trujillo. “I just have to keep positive though or else this will break us.

“We lost our car, had to borrow money and do stuff we would have never planned for,” she said. “At this point, it is what it is, and we just got to take it day-by-day for now. We got everybody heading in the right direction to get better, but it’s been very difficult.”

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.