Monday, July 17, 2017 at 1:31 p.m.
Search and rescue operations were called off this afternoon because of approaching storms with one person still missing after a flash flood in Payson killed at least nine people. Around 100 people were in the swimming hole known as Cold Springs when a rush of water from a thunderstorm upstream swept away the victims, with no warning.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office said a 911 call was received on Saturday at approximately 3:19 p.m. for a search and rescue operation.
Many of the victims were from the same extended family, who were at the swimming hole to celebrate Maria Raya’s birthday, who would have been 26 on Sunday, according to the Arizona Republic. Raya’s three children died in the flood; her husband, 27-year-old Hector Miguel Garnica, is still missing.
On Monday afternoon, the sheriff’s office reported that of the 14 people who were caught in the flood, Julio Garcia, 29, Esthela Atondo, 28, Acis Garcia, 8, and Marina Garcia, 1, were rescued and survived.
There was no rain at the swimming hole on Saturday afternoon, but a thunderstorm approximately 8 miles upstream had dumped water on acreage burned during the recent Highline Fire.
With nowhere to drain, the water apparently rushed toward Ellison Creek and the East Verde River, spilling into the swimming hole and canyon. Video from Saturday showed the floodwaters filled with logs and debris.
Other videos from the scene showed a scramble to rescue people trapped on trees and branches near the rushing water. Other swimmers had raced to get out of the way moments earlier.
The Cold Springs swimming hole is near the Water…
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