What was meant to be a fun outing for a group of family and friends who had met up for a day trip along the popular Cold Springs swimming hole near Payson in central Arizona, turned out to be a nightmare when the waters suddenly gushed down the canyon Saturday afternoon. Nine people were killed and a 13-year-old boy went missing Sunday after a rainstorm submerged the area, reports said.
Gila County Sheriff's Detective David Hornung said that the group was from Phoenix. Tonto National Forest is a popular getaway in southern Arizona, said Hornung. Although he referred to the gathering as a "family group," he said it's possible that some members of the group were not related, according to the Associated Press.
“From what I understand, they were brothers and sisters and nephews and cousins. It was a big group of people out there enjoying swimming in the river and playing in the water,” he said.
More than hundred visitors were present at the spot at the time of the incident at Cold Springs swimming hole in Tonto National Forest, Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief Ron Sattelmaier said, according to reports.
Soon, there were videos posted in social media which captured the deadly flash floods in the area.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a search-and-rescue operation at the swimming hole about 3:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. EDT).
Officials said three bodies were recovered Saturday and six others were found Sunday. They also said four members who were rescued by helicopter Saturday were taken to a hospital in Payson, according to azcentral.com.
Twitter users and journalists were quick enough to post videos and photos of the flash floods that struck Arizona.
A video by Telemundo Arizona showed a reporter interviewing 22-year-old Carla Garnica whose brother Miguel, 27, is still missing. Nine of her family members were killed in the flood.
Despite Arizona being a dry state, it is known for receiving bursts of heavy rains during the summer-monsoon season.
"I wish there was a way from keeping people from getting in there during monsoon season," Sattelmaier said adding, "It happens every year. We've just been lucky something like this hasn't been this tragic."
"The flooding came after a severe thunderstorm pounded down on a nearby remote area that had been burned by a recent wildfire," he further said.
The limited cell service in the Cold Springs swimming hole is one of the reasons for which the victims could not be notified about the floods, Hornung said adding that there are no officials stationed in the area, thus it is more important for visitors to be reminded of being vigilant about the weather.