(PHOENIX) — An eyewitness who captured video of the powerful flash flood that killed nine people this weekend in Arizona questioned during the ordeal whether he would even survive to talk about it.
“You make the wrong step and you get sucked under. You just pray you make the right decision,” Brandon West of Chandler, Arizona, told ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV.
West, 36, a friend and his dog named Lucky were headed to the area for a swim in the hot weather, KNXV-TV reported, when they encountered the rolling tide of black water, thick with debris.
West not only survived but managed to record what he saw on video.
But the nine people from a single family, including several children, who were swept to their deaths were less fortunate.
Meanwhile, police are also still searching for a 27-year-old man who went missing as “part of a group of 14 individuals caught in a flash flood in the East Verde River just North of Payson Saturday,” according to the Gila County Sheriff’s office.
They also released the names of the dead, whose ages range from 2 to 57.
Jonathan Leon, 13, Mia Garnica, 5, Emily Garnica, 3, Danial Garnica, 7, Javier Raya-Garcia, 19, Selia Garcia Castaneda, 57, Erica Raya-Garcia, 2, Maribel Raya-Garcia, 24, and Maria Raya-Garcia, 27, were all found dead after the flood, according to the sheriff’s office.
Julio Garcia, 29, Esthela Atondo, 28, Acis Garcia, 8, Marina Garcia, 1, were rescued and survived the incident, the Sheriff’s office noted.
ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo said that what Arizona experiences during its monsoon season differs significantly from heavy rainfall in other areas, like Florida, partly because of the terrain.
Arizona’s long periods of sustained, dry heat played a role in giving the rushing fluid its thickness and blackish color, he said.
The dry heat in Arizona weakens trees and brush, making it easier for them to break apart under pressure, Golembo said. As a result, debris accumulates in the flowing water.
“When water sweeps along it can pick up the branches and take them along,” he said. “That’s why in video of the flooding, the water has that very dark color.”
That made the water significantly more dangerous than it would have been without the debris, Golembo noted.
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