9 dead in flash flood at Ariz. swim­ming hole

13-year-old boy still miss­ing af­ter del­uge

Albuquerque Journal - - NATION - BY SALLY HO AND ANITA SNOW

TONTO NA­TIONAL FOR­EST, Ariz. — Nine peo­ple died and a 13-year-old boy was still miss­ing Sun­day af­ter a fu­ri­ous flash flood tore through a group of fam­ily and friends cool­ing off in a creek in the Tonto Na­tional For­est in Ari­zona.

Gila County Sher­iff’s De­tec­tive David Hor­nung told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the group from the Phoenix and Flagstaff ar­eas had met up for a daytrip along the pop­u­lar Cold Springs swim­ming hole near Payson in cen­tral Ari­zona and were play­ing in the wa­ter Satur­day af­ter­noon when muddy flood waters came roar­ing down the canyon.

The group had set out chairs to lounge on a warm sum­mer day when miles up­stream an in­tense thun­der­storm dumped heavy rain­fall on the moun­tain.

Search and res­cue crews, in­clud­ing 40 peo­ple on foot and oth­ers in a he­li­copter, re­cov­ered the bod­ies of five chil­dren and four adults, some as far as two miles down the river. The vic­tims ranged in age from a 60-year-old woman to a 2-yearold girl. Author­i­ties did not iden­tify them. Four oth­ers were res­cued Satur­day and taken to Ban­ner hos­pi­tal in nearby Payson for treat­ment for hy­pother­mia.

Res­cuers got to the four vic­tims quickly af­ter the crew heard their cries while they were nearby help­ing an in­jured hiker.

Crews were walk­ing Sun­day along the banks pok­ing through de­bris, in­clud­ing tree trunks. They’ve scoured a five-mile stretch down the East Verde River and will con­tinue south.

The flash-flood­ing hit Satur­day af­ter­noon at Cold Springs canyon, about 100 miles north­east of Phoenix, a pop­u­lar re­cre­ation area eas­ily reached by rel­a­tively easy hik­ing paths. Some know it was as El­li­son Creek or Wa­ter Wheel swim­ming holes.

Hor­nung said the treach­er­ously swift waters gushed for about 10 min­utes be­fore re­ced­ing in the nar­row canyon. He es­ti­mated flood waters reached six feet high and 40 feet wide.


Tonto Search and Res­cue vol­un­teers look for miss­ing swim­mers near the Wa­ter Wheel Camp­ground at the Tonto Na­tional For­est in Ari­zona on Sun­day morning. Nine peo­ple died af­ter a flash flood in the area.

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