GILA COUNTY, AZ – Two of three missing children were found dead Saturday near Tonto National Forest in Arizona after the vehicle they were in got stuck in a flooded creek a day earlier.
Two adults and four other children were rescued from the area, located about 50 miles northeast of Phoenix, Friday.
A 5-year-old boy, was found dead at about 8:45 a.m. local time Saturday, according to Gila County Sheriff’s Office. A second child, whose age and gender were not revealed, was found at 11:14 a.m.
The boy’s body was found about 3 miles downstream from where the vehicle was stuck, officials said.
Rescue teams had resumed search efforts around 6 a.m. Saturday and brought more equipment and bulldozers. Sheriff’s deputies patrolled the area, and rescue vehicles made their way down a dirt path to the search area.
“Multiple rescue teams are on scene, and right now, we’re actively looking for the children,” said Lt. Virgil Dodd, of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.
The search conditions were described as difficult.
“It’s very hard with all the brush and everything we’ve got to go through, the strong waters going downstream,” said Dodd.
Rescue personnel had located the vehicle, described as a military-style truck, in Tonto Creek Friday night, but they were not able to remove it.
“Today, we were able to get it out,” Dodd said. “At this time, there is nobody in the truck.”
Gila County Sheriff’s Office said it received a report just after 4 p.m. Friday of an RV stuck in the creek near the Bar X Crossing. Bar X was closed earlier that day due to flooding caused by a major winter storm.
There were barricades across the road at the time, and signs that say do not cross when flooded, according to Dodd.
One adult and four other children were found stranded on an island and rescued from the area via helicopters by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, according to Gila County Sheriff’s Office. Another adult was rescued from the shore.
The three missing children had remained inside the vehicle. Officials believe everyone was riding in the cab of the truck at the time it got stuck.
Those rescued were taken to a medical facility to be evaluated.
Sheriff’s officials advised the public not to ignore signs that warn of flooded roads. It only takes a little bit of water to sweep any vehicle that attempts to go through that.
Gila County is working with several state and local agencies to find the missing young children.