Arizona flash flood sweeps away family relaxing in swimming hole, killing 9 – Washington Post

A flash flood near Payson, Ariz., killed at least nine people on July 15. Authorities say a family of 14 people were swimming in the area and were swept away in the flash flood. (Reuters)

It began as yet another scorching Saturday in central Arizona as scores of families flocked to the cool waters of a popular swimming hole, seeking relief from the 100-degree temperatures in the cities.

Among them was an extended family of 14 from Phoenix. They gathered at the Cold Springs swimming hole in the Tonto National Forest, near Payson, to celebrate Maria Raya’s 26th birthday, their relatives told local media.

At about 3 in the afternoon, it was barely drizzling as the Raya family and others waded in the water and hiked along the narrow canyon, its scenic waterfall and granite rock formations in the backdrop.

Suddenly, with no warning, the adults and children swimming in the canyon heard a roar. As they turned to look upstream, they saw a massive wall of dark muddy water rushing toward them, carrying tree trunks and logs the sizes of vehicles, Ron Sattelmaier, Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief, told The Washington Post, citing interviews with witnesses.

The flash flood, six-foot tall, 40-foot wide torrents of murky water, swept away Raya, her children and several other family members, spanning three generations, while other relatives grasped onto trees waiting to be rescued. By Sunday, nine people had been found dead. Authorities did not identify the dead, but relatives listed the names to local media.

Among these were Raya and her three children, ages 3, 5 and 7. Raya’s husband, Hector Miguel Garnica, 27, was still missing.

Her sister, Maribel Raya, 24, also died, along with Maribel’s 2-year-old daughter Erika and 14-year-old brother Javier.

Celia Garcia, 60, the mother of Maria, Maribel and Javier, was also confirmed dead, along with her grandson, Jonathan Leon, 13.

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