Earlier 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. At least two of the victims were children, he said. He told them he had been with about 10 other people who had been swept away by the floodwaters.
They said the missing person is a 27-year-old man and attributed the error to miscommunication due to having such a large number of victims.
Deputies said they received a 911 call at 3:19 p.m. Saturday about people missing.
Footage recorded by Disa Alexander shortly after the flood showed a man in a tree holding his baby as water rushed around him.
Her sister, Maribel Raya, 24, also died, along with Maribel's 2-year-old daughter Erika and 14-year-old brother Javier.
The flood was the result of a thunderstorm that dumped heavy rainfall just upstream.
More than 100 people were relaxing at Cold Springs Swimming Hole in Tonto National Forest when they were hit by a flash flood yesterday. A boy Alexander described as the couple's son was on the rocks above the water.
The expected thunderstorm activity will likely remain isolated to scattered in nature, but the storms that do form will bring strong, gusty winds and torrential rain with them, which could trigger even more flash flooding in the region.
Trent Shue a volunteer with the Tonto Recreation Alliance, was with a group marking trails close to Ellison Creek, about three miles from the swimming hole, when the storm hit.
The risk of flash floods become worse after wildfires and drought, he said.
The disaster happened near the Cold Springs swimming hole, just north of Payson, in Gila County, and about 90 miles north of Phoenix. A flood over Labor Day 1970 killed 23 people near the state's Mogollon Rim.