By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"We are never the victims of external events. Events just happen," Neville Rowe once wrote. "When we end a lifetime, we still have the same personalities we had on Earth--the only difference is that we no longer have the physical body around us."
Rowe, a 55-year-old Phoenix man known by New Agers worldwide as a regression therapist capable of telepathic conversations with dolphins, exited his own physical body at approximately 2 p.m. on April 14, when an "external event" on a rocky slope ended his stint on Earth.
Rowe died of head injuries sustained in a fall during a hike on Squaw Peak. A well-traveled adventurer who'd logged a wide range of experiences all over the globe, Rowe was a robust outdoorsman who loved excitement and danger. Those who knew him say that his untimely demise in a public park in Phoenix is as ironic as it is tragic.
Gary Heath, who was hiking with Rowe that day and was the accident's only witness, says the two men met at Squaw Peak about noon on April 14. Although both men were experienced climbers, Rowe had never been to Squaw Peak before. They hiked to the top of a butte north of the peak, via a lesser-traveled route.
After a short rest, the pair started to descend just after 1 p.m. Rowe was leading the way when the accident occurred, about halfway down. According to Heath, who was about six feet above and behind, Rowe suddenly "lost his footing, pitched to his left and tumbled over the edge." Heath says from his vantage point, it was impossible to see whether Rowe had slipped or the ground had crumbled away under his foot.
Heath says Rowe didn't cry out or grab at nearby rocks. He free-fell some 15 or 20 feet onto a ledge, hitting his head on a rock, then rolled farther down the steep slope. Rowe struck his head several more times before finally coming to rest nearly 30 feet from the point where he'd lost his footing. He lay silent and motionless.
Heath decided that the fastest way to summon help was to climb back up over the top of the butte, then down the mountain via the main trail. Heath checked his watch. It was exactly 1:34.
At about 1:45, as he neared the top of the butte, Heath spotted another solo hiker on the distant peak. He waved his fluorescent orange cap and yelled at her, but she apparently was too far away to hear. Heath hurried to the main trail and ran all the way down.
Arriving at the parking lot about 20 minutes later, Heath rushed to the ranger's shack but found nobody there. He says he next raced to a picnic area, where two City of Phoenix trucks were parked. One of the drivers radioed for help, and the Phoenix Fire Department arrived within five minutes.
Heath says he used a trail map to direct rescuers to the spot where Rowe had fallen. At about 2:10, a rescue helicopter appeared and transported a team to the site, where two other hikers had just arrived.
While the chopper hovered above the treacherous terrain, paramedics rappelled down to the ledge where Rowe lay. The helicopter team rushed him to John C. Lincoln Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Early broadcast reports revealed that Rowe had been wearing sandals rather than hiking shoes, hinting that his choice of footwear may have contributed to the mishap. Not likely, says Sky Guadagno, a close friend of Rowe's. "Neville loved sandals and wore them all the time. He'd often worn them for climbing and hiking in all sorts of rough terrain. They'd never given him any trouble," Guadagno says.
Holding up a pair of Rowe's sandals identical to those he wore on the day of his death, Guadagno notes that they are a sturdy brand, made from recycled tires and featuring thick rubber soles with deep-cut treads, secured firmly to the foot by heavy straps around the ankle, instep and toes. These keep the entire sole in snug contact with the wearer's foot, thus preventing the "flip-flop" effect associated with beach thongs.
The Japanese adored Rowe, so much so that his psychic work with dolphins was immortalized in a comic book that became a best seller in that country.
He was a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, and he'd been interviewed in newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal. He inspired a chapter in Spirit Summonings, a volume of the Time-Life Books set Mysteries of the Unknown.
A former electrical engineer, Rowe was also a fine photographer and, according to Guadagno, a "pretty good clog dancer." In his native New Zealand, Rowe had won awards for violin playing and opera singing.
After living in England, California and various other places, Rowe moved to Phoenix in 1986. Writing about his new home in his column "Living In The New Age," he wrote, "At first sight, Phoenix seems a strange choice--conservative, intolerant of 'unusual' behavior, with entrenched organized religion. But . . . my understanding from Spirit is that Phoenix will live up to its name--from the ashes will rise the bird of the New Age. But in order to have ashes, you must have fire. Right now we are all being tested in the fire of change . . . ."