By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - The remains of a 27-year-old man were believed to have been recovered on Wednesday, four days after a flash flood rushed down a rain-swollen canyon in central Arizona killing his wife and eight other family members, a local sheriff said.
Authorities said the body of Hector Miguel Garnica was spotted by a state helicopter surveying the area on Wednesday afternoon during a search near Payson, Arizona, about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix.
“We have located remains that we believe to be involved in this tragic flooding incident,” said Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd, during a news conference at the search site.
Sheperd said family members have been notified and a formal confirmation is pending a DNA analysis by state officials.
The remains were recovered on the fifth day of an intense search launched on Saturday, when a group of family members were swept away by what authorities described as a wall of water that crashed down the canyon at a popular swimming spot in the Tonto National Forest.
The 14-member group was celebrating Garnica’s wife’s birthday, authorities said.
Five children and five adults were killed in the incident ranging from two to 57 years old, sheriff’s officials said. Four family members were rescued.
Authorities said the group was engulfed by a sudden flash flood when a thunderstorm dumped as much as 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of rain in 20 to 30 minutes about 8 miles (13 km) away from an area that had been burned by a nearly 7,200-acre (2,914 hectares) wildfire last month.
A video posted on social media showed the muddy, debris-filled torrent rushing down a canyon on Ellison Creek where the family was taking in the cool waters at a swimming spot frequented by dozens that day.
Some 130 searchers from 24 agencies took part in the search at its peak, including divers and cadaver dogs, authorities said.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)