‘We’re in an earthquake folks’: Local man shares Nepal earthquake experience

Savannah Vasquez
Briant and Jill Cantrell celebrate with their guide Vijay Subedi during their trek in Nepal.

Destin local Briant Cantrell and his wife Jill have an annual tradition of vacationing for their wedding anniversary at the end of April. This year, celebrating their 24th anniversary was no different. The two had plans to travel internationally for their first trek together, but found instead the most memorable and scary adventure yet.

“We were staying in Pokhara, Nepal, and we had just finished a trek the day before,” said Cantrell. “That morning, I had gone out to rent a motorcycle so we could go exploring. I was inside this little shack of a building giving my info for the motorcycle when I started hearing a loud rumble. All of the sudden the walls started shaking and the doors started rattling and we all looked at each other startled and then everyone started running into the street.”

That day was April 25, and the Cantrell’s were staying about 91 miles West from the epicenter of what was recorded to be a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that claimed more than 8,000 lives and destroyed many rural villages in Nepal.

“You could just hear the rumbling and the ground sounded like a train was coming,” Cantrell said of the quake.

Surprisingly Cantrell said he was not afraid and that he and Jill have come to expect crazy events during their vacations.

“Last year when we were on vacation in China the flood came here to Destin,” he said. “In past years while we were away we learned of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Boston Marathon bombing, it seems that at the end of April into early May there is always something about that time of year.”

Although he was separated from his wife during the earthquake, Cantrell said he did not fear for her safety but instead he began to record the event on his smart phone.

“I really wasn’t scared at the time, I was just like, ‘Here we go again, something always happens,’” he said. “I felt safe because I was in the street and no buildings were crumbling and no glass was breaking.”

On the short video he took, people can be seen streaming out onto the street from buildings and alley ways and Cantrell’s voice can be heard saying, “Always when we’re on vacation something crazy happens…We’re in an earthquake folks.”

“I didn’t know yet how bad it was in Kathmandu,” he said of his calm demeanor. “I went back to the hotel with the motorcycle and found my wife and we started talking about it when the aftershock hit. It was a lot shorter, but I think people were as scared if not more scared by that one.”

That aftershock was just the first of hundreds to rattle the region, eventually triggering another major earthquake of 7.3 to hit May 12. Thankfully for the Cantrell’s they were able to leave the region and return to the U.S. prior to the second large tremor but not before another eventful night in Nepal’s capitol city of Kathmandu.

“After the earthquake they closed the Kathmandu airport for two days, and we were sitting there worrying about our plans,” said Cantrell. “At the hotel, they put us on the sixth floor which was the top floor and we noticed big cracks in the wall, and cracks in the stairs, there was also cement coming out of the support columns and the main windows on the front of the building were broken.”

Apprehensive from the aftershocks, the Cantrell’s decided to camp outside on the hotel’s first floor pool deck as a safety precaution.

“We took the pool pads off of the loungers and I went and got an umbrella stand to make a makeshift tent,” said Cantrell. “We didn’t want to take a chance.”

Arriving safely back in Destin on May 2, Cantrell said the experience has reminded him to be grateful.

“It made me realize more of what is important in life; your health and your happiness,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, so live the most for each day.”

To see Cantrell’s earthquake video footage visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0bmXnF2lsY&feature=youtu.be

And for aftershock footage visit: