Five chil­dren among 9 rel­a­tives killed in Ari­zona flash flood

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Five chil­dren were among the nine peo­ple killed in a flash flood at an Ari­zona swim­ming hole dur­ing the week­end, and all were part of an ex­tended fam­ily, au­thor­i­ties said Mon­day.

Three gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily were gath­ered Satur­day at the swim­ming spot about 100 miles north­east of Phoenix, po­lice said. Tor­ren­tial rains in the fire-scarred moun­tains miles away un­leashed 6-foot-high flood­wa­ters dark­ened by ash from an ear­lier wild­fire and swept away the vic­tims, who ranged in age from 3 to 57.

Searchers looked Mon­day for a 27-year-old man who was the only per­son still miss­ing from the group of 14 fam­ily mem­bers who gath­ered at the nor­mally tran­quil swim­ming hole in the Tonto Na­tional For­est north of Payson. Au­thor­i­ties ini­tially had said they were look­ing for a 13-year-old boy but later dis­cov­ered he was among the vic­tims and the older man was miss­ing.

About 40 vol­un­teer work­ers and four search dogs were look­ing for the man, Gila County Sher­iff J. Adam Shep­herd said.

Disa Alexan­der was hik­ing to the swim­ming area where El­li­son Creek and East Verde River con­verge Satur­day when the wa­ter sud­denly surged. Video she posted to so­cial me­dia showed tor­rents of wa­ter surg­ing through jagged canyons carved in Ari­zona’s sig­na­ture red rock.

She spot­ted a man hold­ing a baby and cling­ing to a tree. Nearby, his wife was also in a tree. A boy Alexan­der de­scribed as the cou­ple’s son was on the rocks above the wa­ter.

Alexan­der and oth­ers tried to reach them but couldn’t. For­tu­nately help was close by.

Some search and res­cue team mem­bers were al­ready near the swim­ming hole af­ter get­ting a call to help some­one who had suf­fered a bad al­ler­gic re­ac­tion, Hor­nung said.

Four peo­ple were res­cued and treated for hy­pother­mia.

Those killed in­cluded five chil­dren — 2-year-old Erica Raya-Gar­cia; Emily Gar­nica, 3; Mia Gar­nica, 5; Da­nial Gar­nica, 7; and Jonathan Leon, 13. Also killed were Javier Raya-Gar­cia, 19; Selia Gar­cia Cas­taneda, 57; Mari­bel Raya-Gar­cia, 24, and Maria Raya-Gar­cia, 27. The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice es­ti­mated up to 1.5 inches of rain fell over the area in an hour. The thun­der­storm hit about 12 kilo­me­tres up­stream along El­li­son Creek, which quickly flooded the nar­row canyon where the swim­mers were.

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