Nine people are dead and one is missing after flash floods took swimmers at a swimming hole near Payson by surprise on Saturday afternoon. Three children were among those killed by the rapid waters.
Fourteen people had gathered at the Cold Spring Swimming Hole near Payson for a family get-together, but when a flash flood struck shortly before 3:19 pm local time, they were all washed away, Gila County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. David Hornung told NBC News.
Four victims were rescued, but the rest were washed down the Verde River in the Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix.
“It’s a tragedy,” Hornung said, noting that search and rescue teams comprised of state and local officials worked alongside family members in a frantic hunt for their loved ones. “I can’t even imagine what they’re going through.”
Initial reports indicated that two people were missing, but that number shrank to one upon the tragic discovery of a 2-year-old girl’s body. A 13-year-old boy remains the only missing person in the wake of the flood.
While the area around the swimming hole typically receives about 2.43 inches of rain throughout the entire month of July, nearly an inch of rain fell between 1:15 pm and 3:55 pm, catching residents off-guard.
“Normally it’s just a trickle of a creek,” Hornung said of the Verde River, “but during the monsoon season it can go from a foot deep to 10 feet deep in a matter of minutes.”
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for most of Southern Arizona that will remain in effect until Monday evening.