9 Flash Flood Victims Were From Same Family

Adults, children were swept away by wall of water
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2017 4:49 AM CDT
A helicopter flies above the rugged terrain along the banks of the East Verde River during a search and rescue operation for victims of a flash flood on Sunday in Payson, Ariz.   (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
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(Newser) – The death toll from the devastating flash flood that swept through a swimming area in Arizona's Tonto National Forest Saturday has reached nine—all from the same extended family. They had traveled to the area from Phoenix to celebrate the 26th birthday of Maria Raya, who died along with her mother, Celia Garcia, and her children, Emily, 3; Mia, 5; and Hector Daniel, 7, the Arizona Republic reports. Her husband, Hector Garnica, is still missing. The Republic identifies the other victims as Maria's brother Javier, 14; sister Maribel, 24; Maribel's 2-year-old daughter, Erika; and Jonathan Leon, Celia Garcia's 13-year-old grandson. Surviving family members spent the night searching the creek for their loved ones.

Another relative, a 13-year-old boy, is still missing. Authorities say the family was swept down the creek by a wall of water and debris around 6 feet high and 40 feet wide. The flood, which hit the swimming hole with no warning, was caused by a thunderstorm 8 miles upstream that hit an area recently scorched by a wildfire, creating what one meteorologist calls "a glaze ... that just repels water." A Gila County Sheriff's Office spokesman tells the AP that a flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service around 90 minutes earlier, "but unless they had a weather radio out there, they wouldn't have known about it. There is no cellphone service out here." (Read more flash floods stories.)

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