Authorities pull family vehicle from floodwaters near Tonto Creek where two children died and the search continues for a third.
Courtesy of Randy Roberson
PHOENIX – The Gila County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday night a body found earlier in the day is that of 6-year-old Willa Rawlings, who was swept away in the swollen Tonto Creek two weeks ago along with two other children.
Willa had been missing for two weeks after a vehicle she was in was swept away in floodwaters.
Two other children, Willa’s brother, Colby Rawlings, and cousin Austin Rawlings, both 5, also were swept away but their bodies were later recovered.
Willa’s body was recovered from the area of Indian Point on the north side of Roosevelt Lake on the Tonto Creek Arm Friday just before 2:30 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office said. Tonto Creek feeds into the Salt River, where the two form Roosevelt lake behind Roosevelt Dam.
The discovery came on the same day that a funeral service was held in Lakeside for Willa and Colby Rawlings.
The three children were among nine people who were in a military-style truck Nov. 29 that became stuck as it attempted to cross the Bar X Crossing in a swollen Tonto Creek after heavy rains moved through the area, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office said.
Barricades were in place at the crossing at the time the truck crossed, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Willa and Colby’s parents, Lacey and Daniel Rawlings, along with four other children were rescued from the area. Authorities began searching for three young children who remained inside the vehicle and were swept into the running creek, officials said.
The bodies of Colby and Austin were found the following day. Search efforts continued for Willa, being reclassified as a recovery effort instead of a rescue effort after several days by the Sheriff’s Office.
Residents say high waters after storms are common for the area, resulting in the deaths of at least five people in the past 25 years, according to a recent grant application seeking funds for the bridge.
Follow Chelsea Curtis on Twitter: @curtis_chels.
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