Flooded Tonto Creek leaves 2 children dead, 1 still missing

Courtesy photo Randy Roberson Truck being pulled from the flooded Bar X Crossing in Tonto Basin.

TONTO BASIN –– As of Monday, Dec. 2, search and rescue crews continue to scan the area of Tonto Creek near the Bar X Crossing in search of a missing 6-year-old girl.

Willa Rawlings was one of three children stuck inside a truck taken by flooding waters in Tonto Creek after relatives of the children attempted to drive through the Tonto Creek Crossing.

According to the Gila County Sheriff’s Department, two 5-year-olds, Colby and Austin Rawlings, were found deceased on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Lacey and Daniel Rawlings were in the truck with the children when they attempted to cross a flooded creek that was closed due to high waters caused by a winter storm. Lacey and Daniel were parents to Colby and the missing girl, Willa. Austin was their niece.

It was Friday, Nov. 29 when according to the Gila County Sheriff’s Department, six members of the Rawlings family – two adults and four children – were rescued after the vehicle was overcome by water. The three young children had stayed inside the vehicle.

Lt. Virgil Dodd informed the media at a news conference on Dec. 1 that the family was in Tonto Basin visiting for Thanksgiving. “It is our goal to find the little girl and bring her back to safety,” said Dodd.

Dodd listed some of the barriers that search and rescue crews are facing, noting that there are several hazards when searching a flooded area. According to Dodd there is an excess of water coming from the mountains and a lot of debris in the creek, including brush and rocks. “The debris can cause a lot of damage to a vehicle and a person.”

Dodd stressed to the public that if they see signs or barricaded roads they need to turn around. “Even a foot of water can make a vehicle float.”

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