Flash Flood Kills 5 Children, 4 Adults At Arizona Swim Hole

Jul 17, 2017

A flash flood swept through a swimming hole near Payson Saturday afternoon
Credit Photo courtesy of Amy Lloyd

Adults, teens and children as young as 2 were enjoying a summer afternoon by cooling off in an Arizona creek when the gentle waters turned deadly.

A Saturday storm unleashed 6-foot-high floodwaters, dark with ash from a summer wildfire, onto the unsuspecting family and friends visiting a Tonto National Forest swimming hole. The torrent carried away tree branches and other debris and left a wake of nine bodies.

Rescuers recovered the remains of five children and four adults. 

Authorities and a family member identified the dead as 2-year-old Erica Raya-Garcia; Emily Garnica, 3; Mia Garnica, 5; Danial Garnica, 7; and Jonathan Leon, 13. Also killed were Javier Raya-Garcia, 19; Celia Garcia Castaneda, 60; Maribel Raya-Garcia, 24; and 26-year-old Maria Raya-Garcia.

A 27-year-old man is still missing. The Sheriff's Office planned to resume the search Monday using a helicopter as well as search dogs.

The National Weather Service estimated up to 1.5 inches of rain fell over the area in an hour.