Woman, 3 daughters killed in Wyoming flash flood

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 19, 2011 8:38 PM
Woman, 3 daughters killed in Wyoming flash flood

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A Colorado woman and her three young daughters were killed on Tuesday when their car was swept into a stream by flash floods in a national forest in south-central Wyoming, authorities said.

The woman's husband, 39-year-old Alex Constantinides, who survived after escaping the family's submerged van and scrambling to safety, was treated at a local hospital, Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. Stephen Townsend said.

Killed in the flood were Laurel Constantinides, 39, and her children: Lucia, 2; Zoey, 5; and Hanna, 8, all of Colorado Springs.

The high water, which washed out a road in Medicine Bow National Forest early on Tuesday morning, also swept away the Dodge Durango being driven by Carbon County, Wyoming, Emergency Management officer John Zeiger, who was rescued and treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.

The accidents happened after torrential rains on Monday night prompted evacuation of popular campgrounds in the forest after midnight on Tuesday, Carbon County Undersheriff Mike Morris said.

The Constantinides had packed up their gear and were seeking to leave a campsite and Zeiger was trying to alert campers to the danger when they drove into the washout, which hit a 25-foot stretch of highway that intersected a flood-swollen creek, authorities said.

Zeiger, 52, said in an interview from his hospital bed that he had suffered little more than cuts and bruises after an hour and a half fight in the water that ended with a rescue by volunteer firefighters.

"I feel very fortunate to be here; God was looking after me," he said.

Zeiger said he could hear people yelling for help as he approached a void he could not see in the darkness.

"My vehicle went in, it rolled over a couple times and water came up over it," he said. "Boulders came by, trees came by me. I thought I was not going to make it home to see the family."

The Durango came to rest against a bank of trees, where rescuers were able to free Zeiger.

"They smashed the window on the passenger side and pulled me out; that's the moment when you know you have a guardian angel," he said.

The hours-long storm that broke out in the forest on Monday night brought more than one inch of rain per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

State troopers said on Tuesday that 32 miles of the highway, known as the Snowy Range Road, would be closed for repairs.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)