As daylight waned, authorities suspended search efforts Saturday for a third child, a 6-year-old girl, who was missing near Tonto National Forest after the vehicle she was in got stuck in flooded Tonto Creek a day earlier.
On Friday afternoon, six people — two adults and four children — were rescued when the vehicle was overcome by water in the creek following a major winter storm, according to the Gila County Sheriff’s Office. Three young children had stayed in the vehicle, and two of them were found dead Saturday.
Rescuers will continue searching for the third child, the daughter of the two adults, at 7 a.m. Sunday, sheriff’s officials said.
The body of a 5-year-old boy, a son of the adults, was found at 8:45 a.m. Saturday about 3 miles downstream from where the vehicle became stuck, according to sheriff’s officials. A second child’s body, a 5-year-old niece of the adults, was found at 11:14 a.m.It was unclear how the children got from the truck into the creek, and whether or not the children were wearing seat belts at the time, according to Lt. Virgil Dodd of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.”Hopefully, we will find her soon and bring her back to safety,” Dodd said.
Rescue teams continued search efforts early Saturday morning with aircraft, kayakers, ATVs and rescue dogs. Sheriff’s deputies patrolled the area, and rescue vehicles made their way down a dirt path to the search area.
Search conditions were described as difficult.”It’s very hard with all the brush and everything we’ve got to go through, the strong waters going downstream,” said Dodd.
Helicopters are flying up and downstream, and they’re checking the islands in the area.
The family members are from various areas of Arizona and were believed to have been in the area visiting relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday, Dodd said.
He could not speak to the condition of the rest of the family but said they hope the missing girl will be found safely.
Resident: It’s common to get stuck in the creekRescue personnel had located the vehicle, described as a military-style truck, in the creek Friday night about 600 to 1,000 yards away from the Bar X crossing. But they were not able to remove it.
“Today, we were able to get it out,” Dodd said. “At this time, there is nobody in the truck.”
Throughout the night Friday, rescuers tried to search downstream with help from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopters, Dodd said.
At the Butcher’s Hook, a local diner, several booths were filled Saturday morning with guests talking about the incident, describing what they had heard from news reports and asking waitresses if they knew of any updates.
Robert Edgett lives in the area and said it’s common for people to get stuck in Tonto Creek.“Whenever this river runs and runs good like this, someone tries to cross it,” he said.
He said there’s been a local push for the state to build a bridge over the creek because crossing the creek is the only way to get to some of the houses in the area, which is why he believes people would try to cross even when it’s floodedRead More