Search on for Arizona girl, 6, after truck swept away in storm

The Associated Press

Tonto Basin, Ariz. – Rescuers with helicopters, drones, boats and dogs searched Sunday for a 6-year-old girl missing since Friday, when a truck she was in was swept away while attempting to cross an Arizona creek swollen by runoff from a powerful storm.

A boy and a girl, both 5, were found dead on Saturday, a day after nine members of a family gathered for a Thanksgiving celebration tried to cross the fast-moving creek in a military-style truck.

“We want to bring her home safely to her family,” said Lt. Virgil Dodd of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office. “She needs to come home today, and we’re going to do that today.”

Emergency personnel and law enforcement members gather after a truck was swept away while attempting to cross a runoff-swollen creek in Tonto Basin, northeast of Phoenix.

Authorities said two adults and four children were rescued safely by a helicopter Friday night near the small community of Tonto Basin, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.

Dodd confirmed Sunday that the number of people rescued was six after conflicting reports on Saturday. The children found dead were the son and niece of the adults.

The people in the truck live in various Arizona towns and were in the area to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday, Dodd said. The creek crossing was marked as closed when they attempted to cross.

Rescue teams from multiple agencies participated in the search, and authorities brought in a bulldozer to pull the truck from the creek bed Saturday.

“Searchers found the truck about 1,000 yards (around 914 meters) downstream from the crossing Friday night,” Dodd said. “There was nobody in the truck.”

A National Weather Service meteorologist said the agency issued a flood warning for the region that includes the Tonto Basin area at 8:53 a.m. Friday based on data from an upstream flooding gauge.

Meteorologist Sean Benedict in Phoenix estimated that up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain fell in the area, with some of the runoff coming from snow that fell on nearby peaks.

The region got up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain about a week before, Benedict said. “So the grounds were already pretty wet and that probably helped with the runoff.”

Adverse conditions included heavy brush and slippery mud along the creek and frigid water from snowmelt, but officials said they remained hopeful.