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Search For Man Missing In Arizona Flood Called Off Due To Storms

search team
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
The search team on July 17, 2017.

The search for a man missing since Saturday north of Payson was called off again Tuesday due to storms in the area. 

Hector Garnica was swept away when a flash flood swept through a swimming hole where he and his family were playing. His wife and three children drowned in the flood.

Tiffany Davila with the U.S. Forest Service describes the conditions searchers are working in "the water is about 5 to 6 foot in debris. It's ashy, it’s black, it’s murky, so that it makes it easier and safer for crews to get in and search."

The bodies of the other nine victims have been recovered. All of the victims were at the same gathering of extended family at a swimming hole north of Phoenix when the wall of water moved through.

Incident commander Pruett Small said Tuesday morning the Hector Garnica, who was swept away along with 14 others, probably didn't survive. Four others were rescued Saturday.

"We are pretty much convinced that it has a fatality, and it's a body recovery for us," said Small. "But that doesn't diminish our attempts to find the victim and get that person to the family, so the family can begin their process of closure and the process of grieving.

Detective David Hornung, with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, has been meeting with the victims’ relatives.

"They are devastated. They are in shock. They’re broken-hearted. It’s really ... I don’t know the words to describe how they feel," said Hornung.

Hornung said among dead is an entire family — a mother and father, along with their three children, ages 3 to 7.

To hear an interview with KJZZ's Stina Sieg on The Show, click here.

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When senior field correspondent Stina Sieg was 22, she moved to the desert. She hasn’t been the same since. At the time, the Northern California native had just graduated from college and was hankering for wide-open spaces. So she took a leap and wrote to nearly every newspaper in New Mexico until one offered her a job. That’s how she became the photographer for a daily paper in the small town of Silver City. And that’s when she realized how much she loved storytelling. In the years since, the beauty of having people open up and share their stories — and trust her to tell them — has never gotten old to Sieg. Before coming to KJZZ, Sieg was also a writer and photographer at newspapers in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Moab, Utah; and the Smoky Mountains town of Waynesville, North Carolina. She always had her hand in public radio, too, including hosting Morning Edition on a fill-in basis at WNCW in North Carolina. It’s still the best music station she’s found. When she’s not reporting, chances are Sieg is running, baking, knitting or driving to some far-flung town deep in the desert — just to see what it looks like.