Flash flood near Payson claims seven lives - three people still missing

Pauline Gross
July 17, 2017

At least nine people are dead and one person missing after a flash flood hit an Arizona swimming hole on Saturday afternoon, CBS affiliate KPHO-TV in Phoenix reports.

Gila County Sheriff's Office said officers received a 911 call around 3:20 p.m. Saturday about a search-and-rescue at Cold Springs swimming hole near Payson in the Tonto National Forest.

At least four people have been rescued from the water and treated for hypothermia.

"Eight individuals have been confirmed deceased and search operations continue for remaining missing individuals", Shepherd said in a statement, without specifying how many people were still unaccounted for. The victims ranged in age from a 60-year-old woman to a 2-year-old girl.

They have not been named by authorities.

The flash flood occurred at Cold Springs, near Payson, on Saturday afternoon, sweeping people down East Verde River. "They heard a roar and it was on top of them", Sattelmaier said.

Members of the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue team search for victims of a flash flood on Sun
Members of the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue team search for victims of a flash flood on Sun

Despite Arizona being a dry state, it is known for receiving bursts of heavy rains during the summer-monsoon season.

More than 100 people were bathing in the area when the floodwaters hit with nearly no warning. Alexander said there was no warning before the wall of water hit.

Sattlemaier added that they could not know how many people had actually been at the swimming hole at the time of the incident but that now it was "pretty much recovery". It happens every year. Some barbecue along the water's edge, while others cliff jump into the deeper pools.

"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. When Nancy tried to find a way out, it got worse. He said visitors are reminded to be vigilant about the weather.

A husband and wife from California were killed in September 2008 when they were trapped in a flash flood while hiking in a slot canyon in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

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