PAYSON — A search for a 27-year-old man still missing after a flash flood in central Arizona was suspended Monday afternoon because of a severe thunderstorm moving into the area.
Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief Ron Sattelmaier said the search was stopped about 4 p.m. Monday as light rain with thunder and lightning hit the Tonto National Forest area.
The search for Hector Miguel Garnica will resume Tuesday morning, weather permitting, he said.
Search-and-rescue teams, including K-9 units, had fanned out to search for Garnica, the lone family member unaccounted for after a wall of rainwater, mud and debris tore through a narrow canyon and swept away nine of his relatives on Saturday.
The water took his wife, Maria Raya-Garcia, 27, the day before her birthday. It took their three children, ages 3, 5 and 7, and five other members of Raya-Garcia’s family.
About 2 p.m., as rescue teams were still searching for Garnica, Sgt. Dave Hornung of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office pointed to ominous dark clouds looming in the distance, saying groups were monitoring the weather in case another flash flood might strike.
Hornung said a Type 3 Incident Management Team will take over the search Tuesday.
The team is a statewide emergency response team involving various government agencies, with many members trained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.Hornung said such a team would be much larger than the current search party and would have more equipment, but he didn’t give exact details or figures.
About 40 people combed the 2 1/2-mile search area on Monday.
“We still hold out hope,” Hornung said. “We still hold out for a miracle.”
He said family members offered to aid in the search Monday morning but were asked to let the search-and-rescue teams handle the task.
The search resumed early Monday morning in muddy terrain near the waterfalls above the Water Wheel recreation site.
The Coconino County Search and Rescue Team, the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Team and the Navajo County Search and Rescue Team took part.
Hornung said the teams began their search near the waterfalls and planned to search both sides of the Ellison Creek on Monday.
Sunday night’s thunderstorms didn’t raise the water level at the search site, but Hornung said the area is much muddier, which could slow the search.
Family members who drove to Payson to help search told The Arizona Republic that 14 family members were at the swimming hole when the flood struck around 3 p.m. Saturday.
The nine victims were identified Monday by the Gila County Sheriff’s Office as:
- Maria Raya-Garcia, 27, and her children, Emily Garnica, 3; Mia Garnica , 5; and Daniel Garnica, 7.
- Maribel Raya-Garcia, 24; her daughter, Erica Raya-Garcia, 2.
- Javier Raya-Garcia, 19.
- Selia Garcia Castenada, 57, the mother of Maria, Maribel and Javier Raya-Garcia.
- Jonathan Leon, 13, Garcia Castenada’s grandson.
All were from Phoenix.
Four other family members, a married couple and their two children, were treated at a local hospital for hypothermia and were released.
They were identified Monday as Julio Garcia, 29; Esthela Atonado, 28; Acis Garcia, 8; and Marina Garcia, 1.
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Authorities give an update as search teams scour a 2.5-mile area along Ellison Creek on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 northeast of Payson, in hopes of finding the missing man whose family was in a flash flood. Rob Schumacher/azcentral.com
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Search teams scour a 2½-mile area along Ellison Creek on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 northeast of Payson, in hopes of finding the missing man whose extended family was trapped in a flash flood. Perry Vandell and Rob Schumacher/azcentral.com
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Authorities say they have found nine bodies and are only looking for one more person among a group who got swept up in a furious flash flood in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. (July 17)
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Sgt. David Hornung of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office gives an update on the search for a missing person on July 17, 2017, following a recent flash flood in Payson. David Kadlubowski/azcentral.com
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Tom Price, a friend of the family that was washed away by a flash flood north of Payson on Saturday, July 15, 2017, has set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses. Nine members are confirmed dead. One is missing. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
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Sgt. David Hornung of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office gives an update on the search for a missing person following a recent flash flood. David Kadlubowski/azcentral.com
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Family members Carla and Iris Garnica discuss missing flash-flood victim Hector Miguel Garnica. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral.com
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Carla Garnica, 22, describes the search for her family members, at least 9 of whom were killed in the flash flood.
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Search and rescue teams who were already in the area helped save people caught in Saturday’s flash floods in Arizona. Nearby residents say some who visit the area may not be aware that the weather can quickly turn into dangerous conditions. (July 17)
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A rural fire chief says at least four people were found dead and about a dozen more are missing after flash flooding poured over a popular swimming area inside the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona. (July 16)
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22-year-old Carla Garnica’s brother Miguel, 27, is still missing. Nine of their family members were killed in the flood. Video courtesy of Telemundo Arizona
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Officials search for drowning victims following a flash flood at a popular swimming hole north of Payson that at least killed nine people from a Phoenix family.
David Kadlubowski/The Republic
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Several children died in the flash flood.
Yihyun Jeong/The Republic
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This video of a flash flood in the Water Wheel area outside of Payson was posted June 15 by YouTube user David Cole.
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Update on search for Payson flash-flood victim
Search for Payson flash-flood victim in its 4th day
9 dead, 1 still missing in Arizona flash flood
Search continues for flash-flood victim
Friend sets up GoFundMe page for flash-flood victims
Search continues for missing man after flash flood near Payson
Family of Payson flood victims talk
Family members of Payson flash flood victims describe incident
Crews describe rescue from Arizona flash floods
Raw: Deadly flash floods hit Ariz. swimming hole
Sister of man missing in Arizona flash flood talks on the search
Deadly flash flood kills at least 9 near Payson
Sgt. David Hornung talks about responding to the Payson tragedy
Flash flooding at Water Wheel
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