18 found dead in 2 days in Washington County flash floods, 2 missing; new video

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Twelve people were confirmed dead Tuesday while one person was still missing in Hildale after a wall of water and debris barreled through the streets during a flash flood Monday sweeping away a full-size van and an SUV containing members of two Utah families.

About the same time, another flash flood coursed through a small slot canyon in Zion National Park catching a party of seven adults who were canyoneering; four of their bodies were recovered Tuesday, another two bodies were recovered Wednesday and one remains missing.

Residents of Hildale, Utah, watch as search crews continued Tuesday to go through the area in search of bodies and survivors in the wake of Monday’s fatal flash flooding in Hildale. As of Tuesday night, 12 bodies were recovered, 3 children survived, and 1 boy remained missing. Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Residents of Hildale, Utah, watch as search crews continued Tuesday to go through the area in search of bodies and survivors in the wake of Monday’s fatal flash flooding in Hildale. As of Tuesday night, 12 bodies were recovered, 3 children survived, and 1 boy remained missing. Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

Hildale

Flash flooding is a “way of life” for the city’s residents who typically like to go out and see it, Hildale City Mayor Philip Barlow said Tuesday, but Monday’s flooding was a reality check.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Philip Barlow said, “and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

A total of 16 people — three women and 13 children ranging from 4 years old to teenage — were returning from Maxwell Park around 5 p.m. Monday when they found the road blocked by floods.

“Unbeknownst to them,” Mayor Barlow said, “a flash flood had developed up in the canyon and it came rushing down, and it actually came around behind the vehicles and engulfed the vehicles.”

Three children were found alive and authorities continue to search areas along the Utah-Arizona border for missing 6-year-old Tyson Lucas Black.

(Report continues below)

The flooding impacted several areas in the communities by flooding homes, requiring street closures, causing power outages among other impacts besides the devastating loss of life.

As a result of the flooding, a boil water advisory was issued Tuesday evening as a preventative measure for the cities of Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona, due to damage to the water system.

Search and recovery operations continued through Monday night into the next day in the wake of flash flooding that claimed the life of at least 12 women and children in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Search and recovery operations continued through Monday night into the next day in the wake of flash flooding that claimed the life of at least 12 women and children in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

A large contingent of contractors using heavy equipment worked through the night Monday and all day Tuesday to clear thousands of tons of mud and debris from the Central Street creek crossing and aid in the search for the flood victims.

Hildale resident Dowayne Barlow described the ordeal as “a tragic event beyond epic proportions.”

“I think in talking relation to the mothers,” Dowayne Barlow said Tuesday, “these mothers are very intelligent. They’re very bright, very dynamic girls and it is reflected into their children. They come from Mormon fundamentalist heritage and so family is everything to them and I don’t think that the mothers, if they’d had their choice today, I don’t think that you could have separated them. They’re happy to go with their children today.”

Former Hildale resident Lacy Holm said she came up to the area from Las Vegas to assist loved ones in the search.

“I think the impact is obviously bittersweet, you know? Something tragic like this should never have to bring people together,” she said, “but this community has been so torn apart that it’s actually brought people from the community together.”

Searchers uncovered a vehicle that was swept away by heavy flood waters in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Searchers uncovered a vehicle that was swept away by heavy flood waters in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

Hildale officials issued a disaster declaration Tuesday morning, Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said, and by Tuesday evening, state resources began arriving and assisting with planning for continued search activities.

Tuesday’s effort was supported by over 30 volunteer and professional agencies, Pulsipher said, including assistance from members of the Salt Lake All Hazards Incident Management Team, Utah National Guard units from the 222 FA and the 213 FSC, and Urban Search and Rescue Task Force I.

“Obviously,” Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said, “this is one of the worst weather-related disasters in the history of the state of Utah and, because of that, we’re bringing the full resources of the state to bear.”

Cox said the state is doing all it can to help.

“In a lot of ways it’s symbolic,” Dowayne Barlow said. “This whole event is symbolic to the tragedy that’s already in this community in relation to families being swept away and down the river but we hope that we will be able to have the resurgence – the resilience – to come back and I think that’s the kind of people you have with these families. They’re resilient people and they’ll make their way.”

Read more: News LIVE: 1 still missing, 12 dead in fatal Hildale flood

Zion National Park

Upper Pine Creek Zion National Park flooding STGnews.com
This August 2013 photo shows flash flooding at upper Pine Creek in Zion National Park. Pine Creek is downstream from Keyhole Canyon where seven canyoneering adults were caught in a flash flood Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, four found dead, three still missing as of Wednesday  | File photo by John Teas, St. George News

Bodies of six hikers have been recovered and 1 hiker remains missing in nearby Zion National Park after having been caught in flash flooding through a small slot canyon Monday afternoon.

Keyhole Canyon canyoneering requires a permit from the park and typically involves 30-foot rappels and swimming through pools of water.

Park rangers were told of the group in Keyhole Canyon shortly before the flooding that resulted from .63 inches of rain in one hour around 4:30-5:30 p.m. began, the park’s release said. Their unoccupied vehicles were located Monday evening and a search began Tuesday morning when it was determined they had not exited the canyon. 

The first body was recovered at 1:30 p.m. with three more found in the hours that followed. The bodies of two additional hikers were discovered Wednesday morning.

Teams from the park and from Rockville Fire Department performed the search and recovery operations Tuesday. Teams from Kane and Washington counties and Grand Canyon National park are expected to assist in the ongoing search operations Wednesday.

Read more: UPDATED: Search crews recover 4th body; 3 still missing after flash flood, Zion National Park

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Related posts

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

5 Comments

  • sagemoon September 16, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Three kids lived…that’s amazing! With luck, other missing persons will be found alive.

  • anybody home September 16, 2015 at 9:00 am

    This story is sad in so many ways and for so many reasons and I don’t mean just the loss of lives.

    • Real Life September 16, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Those poor children don’t have a chance.

      • sagemoon September 17, 2015 at 8:22 am

        Hope is a beautiful thing, Real Life.

  • Dexter September 17, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Yeah what SAGE said..!

Leave a Reply