PHOENIX (AP) — Pants belonging to a 6-year-old girl missing since being swept away in a rural Arizona creek during a rainstorm were found Tuesday as a search continued for the child.
Willa Rawlings’ pants were located three-quarters of a mile from where she was carried off by floodwaters, Gila County sheriff’s Lt. Virgil Dodd said.
On Sunday, authorities reported finding a shoe that also may belong to the girl about 200 yards from where the family’s vehicle got stuck in the creek.
The bodies of a 5-year-old son and a 5-year-old niece of Daniel and Lacey Rawlings were found Saturday, a day after a nine-member family group tried to a cross Tonto Creek in a military-style truck.
The crossing had been closed with barricades and signs because of a storm that dropped an estimated 2 inches of rain in the area.
About 60 law enforcement search and rescue team members have been searching for the girl along with more than 300 civilian volunteers.
Dodd said the search will resume today despite a forecast of rain.
“We need to find Willa,” Dodd said. “There’s still a slight chance that this little girl could have hiked up the river or something.”
Divers plan to search the murky water in the lower end of the creek.
Daniel and Lacey Rawlings told Phoenix TV station azfamily.com they are grateful to emergency personnel and volunteers searching for their daughter.
The couple didn’t want to discuss what happened Friday or why they tried the cross the creek with their four children and three nieces.
“I will say one thing. People go around the barricades all the time. I’m not justifying my actions one bit,” Daniel Rawlings said.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he will consider providing money in next year’s state budget to help build a bridge over Tonto Creek.
Gila County has applied repeatedly for federal funds to pay for a bridge where the family truck was swept away but hasn’t won a grant for the project, according to county spokeswoman Jacque Sanders. About 1,000 people are cut off when the creek floods during heavy rains.
The governor told reporters that with the state in a good financial position, looking at ways to fund a
$20 million bridge to serve the small community is in the mix. The county has sought $17 million in federal funds and would pay for the remainder.
The county’s federal grant application said five people previously died crossing the creek in the past 25 years. That was before last Friday’s tragedy.