At least nine people are dead and about a dozen more missing after a flash flood plowed through the popular Cold Springs Swimming Hole in Payson, Ariz., the local Gila County Sheriff’s Office says.
In a Facebook post, Sheriff J. Adam Shepherd said a search and rescue operation was dispatched on Saturday afternoon after thunderstorms pounded the rural central Arizona area and several individuals were reported missing. There were more than 100 people in the Cold Springs Swimming Hole at the time.
Shepherd’s statement said in part:
“Deputies, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger Helicopter, Whispering Pines Fire Department and the US Forest Service have been dispatched and are actively working the scene.
“Eight (8) individuals have been confirmed deceased and search operations continue for remaining missing individuals. At this time the First Crossing and Second Crossing on Houston Mesa Road as well as Waterwheel are closed.
“This is an active investigation and more information may be released as it becomes available.”
According to the Associated Press, among the dead are least two children and four people rescued by helicopter Saturday were taken to the hospital for hypothermia.
Officials did not give details of the deceased or missing persons.
Earlier on Saturday, meteorologists had issued a flash-flood warning for the location around the swimming area, which is about 90 miles northeast of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief Ron Sattelmaier noted that monsoon thunderstorms are a common occurrence in the area.
“I wish there was a way from keeping people from getting in there during monsoon season,” Sattelmaier said. “It happens every year. We’ve just been lucky something like this hasn’t been this tragic.”