A raging, rain-swollen wash swept away a vehicle as rescuers were trying to save members of a Boy Scout troop who had clung to the roof for more than two hours. Two Scouts and a troop leader drowned.
The tragedy occurred late Saturday after the group of four adults and nine boys in Troop 286 aborted their camping trip as El Nino-driven rains battered the low mountains of central Arizona."It was raining too hard and we wanted to get out of there," said Leah Stubblefield, 33, who was driving the Ford Explorer.
The water was nearly 6 feet deep when they started to cross the 12- to 20-foot-wide wash - a creekbed that is usually dry - that stood between them and the safety of Route 87 near Sunflower, about 40 miles northeast of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
A van carrying seven members of the group made it across, but the Explorer got stuck. The two adults and the four Scouts managed to crawl out and cling to the roof for more than two hours before help arrived.
"We climbed out of the windows and waited on top," said Scout John Weiss.
The rushing water covered the roof of the Explorer just as rescuers grabbed Stubblefield; her son, 13-year-old Justin Schraeder; and Weiss, who is about 15.
As rescuers tried to save the remaining three, the floodwaters pushed the truck downstream. It rolled a couple of times, throwing them into the water.
On Sunday, rescuers found the victims' bodies about a half-mile to a mile downstream. They were identified as Jarron Dirvonas, 12, of Gilbert; Scott Zimmerman, 11, of Gilbert; and troop leader Dean Alexander, 38, of Chandler.
"The families are so extremely distraught," Stubblefield said. "The whole troop is banding together. It's such a big loss."