10 white cas­kets: Flood vic­tims re­mem­bered

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Anita Snow and Clarice Sil­ber

The 10 white cas­kets be­long­ing to three gen­er­a­tions of a Mex­i­can im­mi­grant fam­ily were ar­ranged in two rows fac­ing the al­tar at St. Pa­trick Catholic Church in Scottsdale, each bear­ing a metal cru­ci­fix in­side its satin-lined lid.

They died to­gether in mere sec­onds when a dark tor­rent of wa­ter rushed through a placid swim­ming hole July 15, killing a grand­mother, aunts and un­cles, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

Hec­tor Miguel Gar­nica, 26, was the last fam­ily mem­ber found and iden­ti­fied just in time to be in­cluded in the fu­neral Mass.

He and his wife, Maria del Car­men Raya Gar­cia, were killed as they cel­e­brated her 27th birth­day, along with their three small chil­dren: Hec­tor Daniel, 7, Mia, 5, and Emily, 3.

The Rev. Eric Tellez re­mem­bered the fam­ily as hard­work­ing peo­ple, with many em­ployed in the restau­rant in­dus­try pre­par­ing food for oth­ers, a pur­suit the pastor likened to a min­istry.

“What is it about this fam­ily that loves to eat and work in places where they feed peo­ple?” he asked dur­ing an up­beat fu­neral Mass cel­e­brated in English and Span­ish. “It is a vo­ca­tion of bring­ing peo­ple to­gether.”

Tellez said that amid the sad­ness, there had been kind­ness and grat­i­tude, peo­ple of- fer­ing to help pay for the fu­neral and griev­ing fam­ily mem­bers bring­ing food and wa­ter to res­cuers search­ing for their loved ones.

“We can be grate­ful to God even in the sad­dest mo­ments of our lives,” the priest said. “The fam­ily has taught us that. “

Tellez briefly de­scribed each fam­ily mem­ber, re­call­ing Raya Gar­cia’s mother, Selia Gar­cia Cas­taneda, 57, as a sin­gle par­ent who raised her chil­dren alone, and lit­tle Mia “who loved to do ev­ery­one’s fin­ger­nails, in­clud­ing her father’s.”

His co-of­fi­ciant was the Rev. Ed Lucero, a priest in the cen­tral Ari­zona town of Payson, close to where the fam­ily died, who blessed each of the vic­tims af­ter their bod­ies were pulled from the wa­ter.

At the Mass, sev­eral dozen mourn­ers wore white T-shirts printed with a pho­to­graph of the cou­ple, along with their three chil­dren. “In Lov­ing Mem­ory,” the shirts read.

Also killed was Raya Gar­cia’s brother Javier Raya Gar­cia, 19; sis­ter Mari­bel Raya Gar­cia, 24; Mari­bel’s daugh­ter Erika Janel Ca­ma­cho Raya, 2; and Jonatan Leon Vil­lanueva, a grand­son of Selia Gar­cia, who would have turned 13 next month.

The group was swept away when a flash flood caused by a thun­der­storm up­stream rushed through the swim­ming area. Au­thor­i­ties have said the fam­ily had no warn­ing.

An­other flash flood just over a week later trapped 17 hik­ers in a scenic canyon in south­ern Ari­zona.

Res­cuers had to pluck some of the hik­ers, in­clud­ing a 4-year-old boy, from a moun­tain creek swollen by flood­wa­ters Sun­day. Ev­ery­one sur­vived.

Those who knew Hec­tor Gar­nica have said he was a hard­work­ing fam­ily man whose pos­i­tive de­meanor was widely known at the nu­mer­ous restau­rants that em­ployed him as a cook over the years.

Maria Raya Gar­cia was known for her kind man­ner and ded­i­ca­tion to her restau­rant kitchen job.

“I thought it was like a dream; I was hop­ing it wasn’t real,” said Ray Lopez, kitchen man­ager at El En­canto restau­rant, where she worked.

Last week, he re­called Raya Gar­cia’s joy when he al­lowed her to take her birth­day week­end off de­spite a busy sched­ule. Lopez said he and the rest of the restau­rant staff are deeply up­set by the loss of their friend and co-worker.

“I’m OK when I’m here at home,” Lopez said. “When I go there and she’s not there — that’s when I have a hard time.”

Four other rel­a­tives sur­vived the flash flood.

Es­thela Abi­gail Atondo was res­cued, and her aunt So­nia Atondo said her niece still isn’t talk­ing about what hap­pened.

“I saw her and hugged her, but she didn’t say any­thing,” said the el­der Atondo, who trav­eled from Seat­tle for the fu­neral. “She didn’t want to say any­thing.”

To the strains of “Ave Maria,” more than 1,000 peo­ple said good­bye Tues­day to 10 mem­bers of an ex­tended fam­ily who lost their lives in a flash flood while cel­e­brat­ing a birth­day in Ari­zona.

Matt York, The As­so­ci­ated Press

The cas­kets of fam­ily mem­bers who were killed in a July 15 flash flood are loaded into hearses out­side St. Pa­trick Catholic Church on Tues­day in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.