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Feb 8, 2014 1:21 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Fatal crash survivor thanks hero

TUCSON - A University of Arizona student got to thank the man who helped her after a deadly car accident.

On Christmas Eve, Kimberly Montoya and her boyfriend, Matthew Michael Teschner, were on their way home from a ski trip. Their truck rolled down the Salt River Canyon between Show Low and Globe. Teschner did not survive.

Montoya and Teschner had been dating almost 3 years. They met in math class at Mountain View High School.

"He really helped me to grow as a person, as well as I helped him grow," Montoya said. "And we were always there for each other. We were best friends."

Kai Rowe, who lives in Show Low, saw their headlights falling down the embankment the night of the accident.

"Somebody's dying," Rowe said. "That deep canyon. There's nothing to stop the vehicle from going down. Once it's off the side, it's going all the way down."

Rowe thought it was a miracle anybody even saw them fall off the rural highway. Otherwise, search and rescue crews may have been too late to find Montoya alive. When Rowe parked, the dust was still in the air. He rushed down the hill while somebody else called 911.

"I wasn't willing to just wait for someone else to get there to do it," Rowe said.

He literally took the shirt off his back to keep Montoya warm. He said the temperature fell to about 17 degrees. He kept talking and asking her questions to keep her awake.

"I don't even remember what he looks like, because the last time I saw him, I came out of surgery," Montoya said. "And I just remember his distinct voice from that night."

Rowe visited Montoya in a Phoenix-area hospital twice after the accident. He last saw her about a week before she went home on January 26.

"He's a really big hero in my heart, in my eyes," Montoya said. "Without him, I wouldn't have been here. I'm so grateful and thankful that he did what he did."

Rowe is selling his custom-cut jewelry at a gem show at the Palo Verde Road Holiday Inn. Montoya's family invited him to dinner when they found out he was in town. Rowe said he just did what any person would have done.

"If I can do anything, at this point, to help," he said. "I would be more than happy to help."

Montoya has several broken bones, but did not suffer any neurological or brain damage. She hopes to make a full recovery.

The Montoya and Teschner families are facing unexpected costs because of the accident. Both families have set up accounts at Wells Fargo Bank. Donations can be made at any branch to the "Kimberly Montoya Donation Fund" or the "Matthew Teschner Memorial Fund."

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