Arizona flash flood: Nine dead as deluge hits swimmers

Cheryl Sanders
July 17, 2017

A flash flood in a popular swimming hole north of Payson killed nine people Saturday, and left several more missing, officials said Sunday.

At least two of those who died were children, according to reports in local media.

The sheriff's office also added that the waters gushed for about 10 minutes before it disappeared in the narrow canyon and, according to estimates, the floodwaters were not only high but wide as well.

Video shot by Disa Alexander shot shortly after the flood showed a man in a tree holding his baby as water rushed around him. "Unfortunately the heavy rain hit a fire scar and the water had no place to go but run off into the hole".

The search for those missing continues with the sheriff's office, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, the Whispering Pines Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service.

The group from the Phoenix and Flagstaff areas had met Saturday for a day trip along a popular swimming hole near Payson, about 100 miles northeast of the capital.

"Deepest prayers for those lost in the Gila County tragedy, for their families and the entire community".

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said on Twitter that the state would assist in all ways possible.

"The flooding came after a severe thunderstorm pounded down on a nearby remote area that had been burned by a recent wildfire", he further said.

"It's monsoon season in Arizona and these storms build quickly and dump a lot of moisture", Hornung explained.

The thunderstorm hit about eight miles upstream of the swimming hole along Ellison Creek. "We've just been lucky something like this hasn't been this tragic", Sattelmaier said. A flash food warning was issued but without a radio, the group would not have known. "We could hear the roaring of the flash flood in the distance, and it was something to behold".

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