Rescuers Search For Girl, 6, Missing After Truck Swept Away In Gila County

Dec 2, 2019

Authorities say they have found a shoe that might belong to a 6-year-old girl who went missing late last week when the family's truck was inundated by surging water in a creek.  Searchers say they found the shoe Sunday about 200 yards from where the family's vehicle got stuck in the creek Friday.

This Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, photo shows the road closed near Bar X road and Tonto Creek after a vehicle was washed by flood waters in 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.
Credit (Patrick Breen/The Arizona Republic via AP)

Lieutenant Virgil Dodd of Gila County Sheriff's Office told the Arizona Republic search teams believe it may belong to the little girl they were searching for. The girl, is one of three children left inside the family's truck when authorities say it was flooded.  The bodies of the girl’s 5-year-old brother and their 5-year-old cousin, were found in the creek Saturday.

More than 100 volunteers gathered near Tonto Basin, a small community northeast of Phoenix, early Sunday to help search for the missing girl the Arizona Republic reported.

"I cannot thank you enough," the girl’s uncle, Nathan Sherwood, told the crowd of people ready to help, according to the newspaper. "This is about the only light in this dark situation." Volunteers trudged in small groups through the muddy brush, toward the creek, to search for the missing girl, who was last seen wearing jeans and a purple jacket.

The girl's parents, Daniel and Lacey Rawlings, both escaped from 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 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 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.

Volunteers trudged in small groups through the muddy brush to search for the missing girl, who was last seen wearing jeans and a purple jacket. "The Rawlings family are a fixture," said David Merrill, one of the volunteers, told The Republic. "They're the salt of the earth and they have done so much. Little League, school ... volunteers for football ... whatever it took, they've been in the middle of it." Merrill came with a group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pinetop, about 130 miles east of the search area. "The whole community's rallied around them to show their love and support during this tragedy," he said. Dodd, of the sheriff’s office, confirmed Sunday that the number of people rescued Friday night was six after conflicting reports on Saturday.