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2 children found dead, 1 missing after car swept away by floodwaters in Arizona

Posted at 10:35 PM, Nov 30, 2019

TONTO BASIN, Ariz. — Arizona officials confirmed a 5-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl were found dead after a military-style vehicle was swept away by flooding in the Tonto Basin area around 4 p.m. on Friday.

According to the Gila County Sheriff's Office, two of the three children reported missing were located around 8:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Saturday. The children were reportedly located separately about three miles downstream.

A GCSO spokesperson said during an afternoon press conference that one of the children found dead was a child of the parents in the vehicle, and that the other child was a niece. The man and woman are parents to four of the seven children that were in the vehicle, officials said.

GCSO said the military-style vehicle had been found late Friday night, but the three missing children were not inside.

According to GSCO, the man and four children made it out of the vehicle and were stranded on an island following the crash. The woman was also able to escape and get to a nearby bank.

Members of the group who escaped the vehicle were eventually rescued and taken to shore with the assistance of a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

A Department of Public Safety helicopter is assisting with search and rescue operations for the remaining missing child.

Tonto Basin water rescue
Photo courtesy Anastasia Richards

Officials on scene said crews are searching a span of four to five miles along the creek for the 6-year-old girl still missing.

The family was together as part of a holiday gathering with relatives, according to the sheriff's office.

Authorities say at least 50 people are assisting in search and rescue efforts, which are ongoing. First responders plan to continue searching until they find the last child, who is also said to be a child of the parents from the vehicle.

A GCSO spokesperson said crews and helicopters will continue search operations until it gets dark, and will resume their search at 7 a.m. Sunday with additional resources expected.

"Sheriff J. Adam Shepherd would like to thank the multiple agencies for assisting in this ongoing operation and remind everyone of the dangers that can occur during flooding. We are concerned for the safety of those involved and the first responders," a press release from the Gila County Sheriff's Office said.

Officials noted search efforts have been challenging at times due to swift moving water coming down from the mountains, as well as debris and loose rocks in the area due to the flooding.

While the search was going on, residents had already set up a cross in remembrance of the tragedy.


This story was originally published on KNXV.