The ongoing search for a 6-year-old girl missing after being swept away in a Tonto Creek, Ariz., rainstorm last week is now a recovery operation, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday, an indication the child is not expected to be found alive.
In a late-afternoon briefing, agency spokesman Lt. Virgil Dodd said, “We would love to keep this hopeful, but because of the circumstances we are considering it a search and recovery'' in the search for Willa Rawlings, the Arizona Republic reported.
"It's been six days, we're going on our seventh day. We don't know where (the girl) is at. We just want to find her for the family to get some closure.''
The search, which began after Rawlings was swept away with two other children last Friday, would resume at 8 a.m. Thursday, he said.
SINGLE SHOE FOUND IN SEARCH FOR MISSING 6-YEAR-OLD GIRL SWEPT AWAY IN ARIZONA CREEK
In the last two days, searchers found both a pair of shoes and pants believed to belong to the missing girl and have widened their search area, the report said.
Officials will employ drones and a remote-controlled sonar device to check a two-mile stretch of the waters, and possibly a helicopter, weather permitting, as rain is forecast for the area overnight, potentially causing the creek to rise again, the newspaper reported.
The girl was one of nine family members in a military-style truck that became stuck Friday while trying to cross Tonto Creek at the Bar X crossing off State Route 188, near Roosevelt Lake northeast of the Phoenix area, the report said.
2 ARIZONA CHILDREN, BOTH 5, FOUND DEAD, ONE STILL MISSING AFTER VEHICLE SWEPT AWAY BY FLOODWATERS
The bodies of her 5-year-old brother, Colby, as well as her 5-year-old cousin, Austin, were found Saturday. Her parents, Daniel and Lacey Rawlings, and four other children were rescued, the Republic reported.
At the time of the incident, the crossing was closed with barricades and signs because of a storm that dropped an estimated 2 inches of rain in the area.
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A memorial service for Austin Rawlings was scheduled for Friday afternoon at a Peoria church, according to a GoFundMe page set up for the girl's family.
The tragic incident occurred in an area where nearby residents have been pushing for construction of a bridge for years, the Arizona Republic reported.
Tonto Creek, which is more than 70 miles long, flows from just below the Mogollon Rim down to lower terrain, where it meets the Salt River. At that point, the waters are controlled by Roosevelt Dam, forming Roosevelt Lake.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.