Arizona Flash flood: Rescue workers still searching for missing man, 27

The search is still on for a 27-year-old man authorities say has been missing since a flash flood slammed into a popular swimming area on the East Verde River, about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix on Saturday.

A group of 14 friends and family were enjoying the cool waters at the Cold Springs Swimming Hole just north of the small town of Payson when a 6-foot wall of water, mud, dead wood and ash swept into the remote area.

It was caused by monsoon rains that hit a 7,000-acre burned out area some eight miles upstream. Gila County Sheriff's Spokesman, Sgt. David Hornung, says a warning was issued about an hour and a half before the remote swimming hole was hit.


"There was probably no way they heard that there was a flash flood warning because there was no cellphone service and you're probably not going to get too many radio stations down in there either"

Scott Muller was working with the National Forest Service, clearing trees upstream from the swimming area, when he and his co-workers heard what sounded like a freight train. He pulled out his cellphone in time to capture the churning mass passing by but had no idea people were in the path downstream.

The danger of flash floods are always present during the monsoon season in the southwest.

"It could have happened to anybody,” said local resident Dustie Ibbles. “It happened so fast and you don't really have time to react."

Eyewitness Mandisa Alexander was just arriving at swimming hole when disaster struck.

"The water is calm,” she said, ”and next thing we know there's just a bunch of water coming down."

She and four others tried unsuccessfully to help a man holding a toddler while trapped in the rushing current.


"...Tried to put a branch out to see if we could try to rescue him, and people were yelling and saying 'get out of the water',” she said. “So we ended up falling back and we got out and we weren't sure if there was more water coming down."

Carlos DeZubeldia and a companion unknowingly arrived just after the flood went through the area. They were on the trail to the swimming hole when a couple walking out told them to turn back because there was a body along the path.

"We decided to go further to see if there was anything we could do and we came across one of the ladies wrapped around a tree," he said.

DeZubeldia, who works in the medical industry, says rescue workers soon arrived on the scene.

"I looked in their faces and you could tell they were just in awe. They were really caught off guard and they didn't really know what to do. It was horrible."

In a press release Monday, the Gila County Sheriff's Office released the names of the 9 confirmed dead whose bodies were recovered over the weekend. They include 2-year-old Erica Raya-Garcia, 3-year-old Emily Garnica, 5-year-old Mia Garnica, 7-year-old Danial Garnica, 13-year-old Jonathan Leon, 19-year-old Javier Raya-Garcia, 24-year-old Maribel Raya-Garcia, 27-year-old Maria Raya-Garcia and 57-year-old Selia Garcia Casteneda.

The name of the missing man has not been released.

Gail O'Brien contributed to this report.

Alicia Acuna joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1997 and currently serves as a general assignment reporter based in the network's Denver bureau.