Search continues for missing 6-year-old after Tonto Basin area flooding
PHOENIX – Gila County Sheriff officials were searching for a 6-year-old girl after her family’s oversized military-style truck was swept away by flooding northeast of Phoenix on Friday.
Officials were attempting to locate the girl a day after her brother and cousin, both 5, were found dead near Tonto Basin.
“We’re still considering it an active search,” Gila County Sheriff Lt. Virgil Dodd said in a press conference on Sunday. “We’re very hopeful to find this little girl. We want to bring her home safely to her family.”
More than 100 volunteers gathered early Sunday to help search for the missing girl.
Volunteers trudged in small groups through the muddy brush, toward the creek, to search for her. She was last seen wearing jeans and a purple jacket.
The vehicle, which had nine occupants, attempted to cross Tonto Creek at the Bar X crossing around 4:11 p.m. on Friday afternoon when it was swept away by the flood waters.
Four children and two adults got out and were rescued by helicopter, but three children stayed in the truck and it was later swept away.
The 5-year-old girl was found about three miles downstream from the boy.
“Their vehicle they were traveling in became stuck and from our understanding was overturned or just overtaken by water,” Johnson told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.
The creek crossing was marked as closed with barricades and signs, authorities said.
A National Weather Service meteorologist said the agency issued a flood warning for the region that includes the Tonto Basin area at 8:53 a.m. Friday based on data from an upstream flooding gauge.
Meteorologist Sean Benedict in Phoenix estimated that up to 2 inches of rain fell in the area, with some of the runoff coming from snow that fell on nearby peaks.
The region got up to 4 inches of rain about a week before, Benedict said. “So the grounds were already pretty wet and that probably helped with the runoff.”
Adverse conditions included heavy brush and slippery mud along the creek and frigid water from snowmelt, but officials said they remained hopeful.
A GoFundMe campaign was collecting donations for the family.
KTAR News’ John Roller, Gabriel Gamino, Amy Pholphiboun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.