National News

Loved one remembers family who died together in flash flood north of Payson

Posted July 18

— We have learned more about the family who was at a swimming hole when flash floods came during the weekend and killed at least nine people, including five children.

Gila County Sheriff's Office identified the victims as Selia Garcia Castaneda, 57, Maria Raya-Garcia, 27, Maribel Raya-Garcia, 24, Javier Raya-Garcia, 19, Jonathan Leon, 13, Danial Garnica, 7, Mia Garnica, 5, Emily Garnica, 3, and Erica Raya-Garcia, 2.

Hector Miguel Garnica, 27, is still missing. Crews suspended the search for him on Monday afternoon due to weather. He's presumed dead.

The four people who were rescued were identified as 29-year-old Julio Garcia, 28-year-old Esthela Atonodo, 8-year-old Acis Garcia and 1-year-old Marina Garcia.

The family was near the Cold Springs swimming hole on Saturday afternoon when a flash flood came through and swept the 14 people away.

"Their family is very well known throughout this town," said Tom Price, who runs The Horney Toad Restaurant in Cave Creek.

It is one of several restaurants, where many members of the Garnica and Raya-Garcia families worked.

Price was closest to Hector Miguel.

The two have known each other for about 20 years and met when Price dated a Garnica cousin.

"I always used to just mess with him, you know, because I was older than him. We started hanging out and you know working together at a few different restaurants and we became very good friends," said Price.

The trip up north to the Payson area was to be an outing for Hector Miguel's wife, Maria. They brought along their three young kids named Danial, Mia and Emily. Also along on the trip were Maria's sister, Maribel, Maribel's daughter Erica, Maria and Maribel's brother, Javier and the three siblings' mother, Selia Garcia, and Selia's grandson, Jonathan.

"It's unbelievable. This family is like a picture perfect family. They're so close. They're always doing family functions. I don't know how they're going to get past this," said Price.

Iris Garnica, a cousin, works for Price. She said there are no words to express what her family is going through.

"Mal. Toda familia está mal. Triste. Es una trajedia muy triste. No los podemos creer," said Iris, a Spanish speaker.

Iris said her entire family is up in the Payson area where the search for Hector Miguel's body is still underway.

"If you knew Miguel, he's a super dad. His kids meant everything to him. He always promised he would never leave his kids. He has to be found so he can at least be buried and the family can be at somewhat peace," said Price.

Maria worked at El Encanto in Cave Creek. That restaurant stayed closed on Monday to mourn the unthinkable loss of their co-worker and her family.

Price said he talked with Hector Miguel's mom Monday morning. She reportedly told him, she is not leaving the Payson area until they find her son and she can take him home.

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