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3 people die in Arizona after being caught in floodwaters

The Associated Press//March 24, 2023

3 people die in Arizona after being caught in floodwaters

The Associated Press//March 24, 2023

floodwaters, rescue, Camp Verde, Gila County Sheriff's officials
A man stuck in a tree is rescued by swift water teams from Copper Canyon Fire and Medical District, and the Verde Valley Fire District on March 22, 2023, in Camp Verde. Several water rescues were reported across central and northern Arizona on Wednesday. (Vyto Starinskas/The Daily Courier via AP)

PAYSON, Ariz. (AP) — At least three people were found dead this week after their vehicles were swept away by floodwaters in Arizona, authorities said.

Gila County Sheriff’s officials said the bodies of a couple missing after their vehicle was stuck in floodwaters in the Payson area were located Thursday. They were identified as Phon Sutton, 85, and Dara Sutton, 72, both of Payson.

Separately, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office said the body of a 64-year-old woman was recovered after the vehicle she was traveling in with her husband was swept downstream at a river crossing.

Flooding caused by recent rainfall and snowmelt has created issues across parts of central and northern Arizona with residents in several low-lying communities told to evacuate.

Gila County authorities said search and rescue crews were dispatched Wednesday morning after county authorities received a 911 call about a pickup truck found in Tonto Creek. The vehicle was located about 18 miles (29 kilometers) east of Payson.

Sheriff’s officials said search efforts were complicated and dangerous due to weather conditions and flooding. The Hell’s Gate Fire Department, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, Payson Police Department and Arizona Department of Public Safety took part in the search.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office received a call at 10:48 a.m. Thursday from a man who reported his wife was missing. The man said that during the previous night they were traveling on Hutch Road, about 16 miles (25 kilometers) west of State Route 377, when their Jeep was swept downstream by swift-moving water at a wash known as Seymour’s Crossing.

The vehicle came to rest and after an hour they were able to leave the vehicle and reach the riverbank, but they were separated in the dark while seeking assistance. The man was assisted by local residents.

The body of the woman, who was not immediately identified, was found about 200 feet (61 meters) from the water, the sheriff’s office said.

Navajo County Search and Rescue, Hashknife Sheriff’s Posse, Joseph City Fire, Holbrook EMS and the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Air Rescue Unit participated in the search for the woman.

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