2 children dead, 1 missing in Arizona creek flooding; search continues

Mike Cruz and BrieAnna J. Frank, Arizona Republic
2 children dead, 1 missing in Arizona creek flooding; search continues

GILA COUNTY, Ariz. – Two of three missing children were found dead Saturday near Tonto National Forest in Arizona after the vehicle they were in got stuck in a flooded creek a day earlier. 

Two adults and four other children were rescued from the area on Friday, about 50 miles northeast of Phoenix.

As daylight waned, authorities prepared to suspend search efforts for a third child, a 6-year-old girl.

The suspension was announced shortly before 5 p.m. Rescuers were to continue searching for the girl at 7 a.m. Sunday, according to the Gila County Sheriff's Office.

A 5-year-old boy was found dead at about 8:45 a.m. Saturday, according to Gila County Sheriff's Office. A second child, whose age and gender were not revealed, was found at 11:14 a.m.

The boy's body was found about 3 miles downstream from where the vehicle was stuck, officials said.

Rescue teams had resumed search efforts early Saturday and brought more equipment and bulldozers. Sheriff's deputies patrolled the area, and rescue vehicles made their way down a dirt path to the search area.

"Multiple rescue teams are on scene, and right now, we're actively looking for the children," said Lt. Virgil Dodd of the Gila County Sheriff's Office.

The search conditions were described as difficult.

"It's very hard with all the brush and everything we've got to go through, the strong waters going downstream," Dodd said.

Rescue personnel had found the vehicle, described as a military-style truck, in Tonto Creek Friday night, but they were not able to remove it.

"Today, we were able to get it out," Dodd said. "At this time, there is nobody in the truck."

Gila County Sheriff's Office said it received a report just after 4 p.m. Friday of an RV stuck in the creek near the Bar X Crossing. Bar X was closed earlier that day because of to flooding caused by a major winter storm.

There were barricades across the road at the time and signs instructing drivers not to  cross when flooded, Dodd said.

One adult and four other children were found stranded on an island and rescued via helicopters by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, according to Gila County Sheriff's Office. Another adult was rescued from the shore.

The three missing children had remained inside the vehicle. Officials believe everyone was riding in the cab of the truck at the time it got stuck.

Those rescued were taken to a medical facility to be evaluated.

Sheriff's officials advised the public not to ignore signs that warn of flooded roads.

Contributing: Catherine Reagor and Chelsea Curtis

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Winter storm: 2 kids dead, 1 missing in Arizona creek flood