News LIVE: 1 still missing, 12 dead in fatal Hildale flood; updated 7:18 p.m.

NEWS LIVE: This report contains news live as it develops and is being  updated continuously. Bookmark and refresh the page periodically for updates; updated 4:08 p.m.

HILDALE – Twelve people are confirmed dead, three have been rescued and one remains unaccounted for after a wall of water swept two vehicles downstream in a flash flood in Hildale Monday afternoon. A total of 16 people were involved in the incident.

Remains of the two vehicles believed to have been involved in the fatal flooding incident on Short Creek that has left a number of people dead and others missing, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Guy Timpson, St. George News
Remains of the two vehicles believed to have been involved in the fatal flooding incident on Short Creek that has left a number of people dead and others missing, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Guy Timpson, St. George News

7 p.m.: As of about 7 p.m. Tuesday, one flood victim is still missing.

“We are committed to finding him,” a Washington County Emergency Services Facebook post said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones in this incident and in a similar incident in Zion National Park.”

State resources are arriving in the area and assisting with planning for continued search activities.

“The search is being scaled back though the night and will be resumed in earnest in the morning,” the post said, “with local resources being assisted by members of the Salt Lake All Hazards Incident Management Team, Utah National Guard units from the 222 FA and the 213 FSC, Urban Search and Rescue Task Force I and other assets.”

More than 30 volunteer and professional agencies and other volunteers supported Tuesday’s search and rescue efforts.

The WCES post stated:

We thank all those who have assisted in this effort and are grateful for their dedicated and persistent efforts.

4 p.m.: Washington County Emergency Services confirmed the updated death toll of 12 at about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Hunters in the area have reported to family members that they’re OK, according to a Facebook post from WCES.

The search for victims continues with additional rain expected in the area. The public is asked to stay away from the search area to allow search and rescue personnel to work effectively.

With more rain expected, community members are admonished to stay out of low lying areas and well away from washes and river bottoms. Do not drive across flooded road crossings.

Heavy rains hit the Short Creek area Monday around 5 p.m. As a result, several streets flooded and area waterways swelled with flood waters. One of them was Short Creek in Water Canyon, where a flash flood engulfed two vehicles with what officials described as a “wall of water.”

At some point during the day, the two vehicles believed to be involved in the fatal flooding incident were found. Photos have been provided courtesy of Guy Timpson and can be found in the gallery below this article.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is the most recent state-level official to comment on the events in the Short Creek area – comments added 2:25 p.m.:

I was just in Washington County meeting with members of the Hildale community late last week. I am heartbroken to hear of this devastating loss, particularly in light of other recent tragedies they have faced. Government serves several roles in society, but one of its fundamental obligations is public safety – and I know state and local officials are closely coordinating resources in recovery efforts.

On behalf of the state of Utah, I offer thanks to the first responders, law enforcement personnel, volunteers and others doing all they can to assist recovery efforts. And Saysha and I express our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims affected by this tragedy.

1 p.m.: Hildale Officials issued a disaster declaration at 11:43 a.m., according to Washington County Emergency Services. Urban Search and Rescue elements, National Guard and incident management assistance have been requested from the Utah State Division of Emergency Management.

At a press conference held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow confirmed the deceased include three women. The rest were children from 4 years old to their teens. Four individuals remain missing at this time.

Also addressing the media was Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, appearing on behalf of Gov. Gary Herbert, who is currently on a trade mission to China. He said state officials have been in constant contact with the local authorities, adding that the Utah National Guard will also be rolled out to aid in search and cleanup efforts.

On behalf of the state of Utah we send our condolences, our hearts are broken for the good people here in Hildale and Colorado City 

(The governor has) authorized the use of our National Guardsmen to come in and help, we’re coordinating that right now with the mayor and with the county We’d also like to commend our county commissioners, Sheriff Pulsipher, for their work in responding to this disaster but first and foremost our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those who have lost loved ones. At this time we just want Hildale to know that we love you, that we’re thinking about you and that we’re here to serve you. I hope that this will bring the state and these communities closer together as we work together to bring an end to this very difficult time.

Obviously this is one of the worst weather-related disasters in the history of the state of Utah and because of that we’re bringing the full resources of the state to bear.

Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher was also present and said that around 25 different local, county, state and federal agencies were currently involved in search operations in the area.

This includes approximately 100 search and rescue law enforcement officers, 500 volunteers and around 50 people attached to the Hildale-Colorado City Fire Department, coming to an estimated 650 individuals involved in search efforts. Members of the National Guard are anticipated to arrive sometime Tuesday afternoon.

12:33 p.m.: Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher has confirmed another body has been found, bringing the death toll to nine. Four others remain missing.

12:15 p.m.: The Red Cross has deployed its Emergency Response Vehicle to the Hildale area.

Victim count remains the same, with eight deceased and recovered, three survivors and five missing as of 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to Washington County Emergency Services.

Darin Thomas, principal of the Water Canyon School in Hidale, issued a statement via the Washington County School District website around 11:50 a.m.:

I have received many phone calls, texts, and emails with encouraging thoughts and prayers being offered to Water Canyon and the residents of Hildale. The tragedy that struck here last night was severe and will have lasting effects for some time. I wanted to let you know that there were no students from Water Canyon involved in the incident; although many had relatives who perished. We are and will continue to work though the events of yesterday and do what we can to support our students. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts during this tragic time.

At  around 11:40 a.m., Rep. Chris Stewart issued a statement concerning the flooding:

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the floods in Hildale. I’m grateful for the first responders and volunteers helping with the search and recovery efforts. My office stands ready to help in any way we can.

At 11:35 a.m, Washington County Emergency Services said search teams are continuing to search the banks of Short Creek. No additional victims have been located.

The creek is still running high and the area is unstable, with large volumes of mud and debris.

Search teams are continuing to search the banks of Short Creek.

“We’re continuing to have rainfall and a lot of moisture coming into the area so we’re going to try to do as much as we can in the windows that we’ve got between these storms, but safety is our utmost concern and that’s where the focus is, to make sure we keep all of our volunteers safe,” Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulispher said.

No additional victims have been located at this time.

Officials continue to ask the public to stay away from the area and allow searchers to continue their efforts.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch issued statements concerning the fatal flooding in Hildale.

Around 9:30 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Short Creek area until noon Tuesday.

“I am heartbroken to hear of the recent tragedy in Washington County. The State of Utah has offered its full resources to the town of Hildale to aid with the search and rescue effort,” Herbert said, adding the state is offering its full resources to the town to aid in search and rescue operations.

“Elaine and I send our prayers for the victims of the Hilldale Flooding and their families, and to the emergency responders as they continue to search for those missing,” Hatch said.

At 7:26 a.m., Tuesday, officials reporter that fire and public works crews worked through the night monitoring flood crossings and searching the banks of Short Creek.

Search and recovery operations continue in the wake of flash flooding in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Search and recovery operations continue in the wake of flash flooding in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

A large contingent of contractors, using heavy equipment, are working to clear thousands of tons of mud and debris from the Central Street creek crossing.

Rain continued throughout the night and flooding has continued and all crossings remain closed.

One survivor remained hospitalized over night. There are eight confirmed dead, and five still missing. Six of the deceased were located in Utah and two in Arizona, almost 2 1/2 miles down stream.

The search effort will continue and resources will be increased Tuesday morning, weather permitting.

Washington County Emergency Services reported about 12:50 a.m. Tuesday that the location of an additional deceased victim has been found, bringing those killed in this incident to eight.

“The search is currently being scaled back due to safety concerns,” officials said via a Facebook page update. Search efforts are being scaled back for the night due to safety concerns. A full-scale search will resume at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Earlier, Chief Kevin Barlow with the Hildale-Colorado City Fire Department said:

At about 4 and 5 o’clock we had a thunderstorm come over town and hit the canyons above us extremely hard. We had multiple different rescues of stranded vehicles at the crossing, but the most significant incident we’re aware of is two occupied vehicles were hit by a wall of water on Canyon Street and they were carried downstream in a flood channel and there were 16 people in those vehicles – there were 16 people in those vehicles between those two vehicles – three have been rescued alive, six confirmed fatalities, and seven remain unaccounted for. 

The occupants of the vehicles ranged from three adult women to children around the age of 4 years old, Barlow said. Barlow was unable to identify which among them had died, were found or yet missing.

This water (that) caught them unawares came out of Maxwell Canyon,” Barlow said. “It’s just above the confluence where it joins Short Creek – they’re actually in the Short Creek Channel but they were washed there ….”

A vehicle that was caught up in the flooding at Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A vehicle that was caught up in the flooding at Hildale, Utah, Sept. 15, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

Three surviving victims, one was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George for treatment, and six people are still missing as of the 11:20 p.m. update.

Emergency responders from Hildale, Colorado City, Hurricane, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue, Mohave County, and Apple Valley are involved in the  search for the missing.

Many streets were heavily flooding and there is a lot of mud, sand, boulders, and debris on those streets. Multiple homes are without power and water due to infrastructure damage. Additional persons were rescued by emergency responders during the event.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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12 Comments

  • native born new mexican September 14, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    This is very sad news. I am so sorry to hear this. You get the announcements of flash flooding on the phone but you never expect this. I wish the very best to all involved in this tragedy.

  • Ladyk September 15, 2015 at 12:52 am

    This is heart breaking. Prayers go out to all of those evolved with this tragedy. I hope there is no further loss of life or injuries.

  • debbie September 15, 2015 at 6:39 am

    danggg these ppl are getting hit right and left, 4 wheeler accidents, car accidents, missing persons.. i am so sorry.. i just wish they could have some peace some genuine peace.. Sending prayers right now, God bless!

  • SteveSGU September 15, 2015 at 9:06 am

    A very sad situation, but sadly preventable. Flash floods are fascinating, but they are also deadly. Living in the desert Southwest, we need to realize how dangerous it is to sit in a narrow canyon watching a flood, to watch a flood from a bridge where debris is piling up, to allow children to watch a flood up close without proper supervision, to try to unstick a car in the middle of a fast-moving flood while people are inside the car, etc. May these families be comforted, and may all of us learn life-saving lessons from this tragedy.

    • debbie September 15, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      i dont think floods are preventable. this water swelled from a couple directions, they were just traveling when they came upon a road they couldn’t cross due to flood, then out of no where, flood water from the road above them hit them from behind.. so please don’t tell their families they were silly. i know you mean well. Also, the rescue crews appear to be trying to secure the car before it swept away with the ppl in it.. so one guy was doing that, did u see the car rocking and how fast the rescuers were trying to pull them out of the car? there was no time to secure safety line ropes etc, the timber filled mudd wasn’t waiting on them.. i’m so proud of the rescuers for risking their lives for the ladies.. those guys new the danger they were in.. the children on the bridge.. yeah, i struggled with seeing that. it appeared two of the boys were wet and anxious.. so i’m not sure they could have been out playing and gotten trapped on the other side of the bridge.. they were young and looked panicked.. the teenagers on the bridge.. must not have watched the video of walk way bridge in santa clara i belive give out at the pilings.. ppl just cannot see danger sometimes when its right in front of their eyes.

      • SteveSGU September 15, 2015 at 7:51 pm

        Yes, of course the floods are not preventable, but many of these deaths were likely preventable. I would like to know what the experts say about staying in a vehicle or getting out and running up to higher elevations in such events. None of us know for sure what really happened, but we do know that we need to be very careful around flash floods to save our own lives in the future.

        • debbie October 6, 2015 at 8:42 am

          I think the reason I was bothered by the comment was, I’ve been just driving down 59 headed to cedar point from apple valley, it started sprinkling.. and then boom, I couldn’t see out my windshield, I had to nearly stop and when it let up enough for my wipers 50 mph swish to even be of any use.. I couldn’t see the road, there was NO “stop turn around don’t drown” srrsly.. I couldn’t figure out what to do.. I tried to guage where my car was in relation to the light poles and tried to drive / navigate on to cedar point about a half miles from where I was.. then I had trouble finding where to turn.. I saw the sign into cedar but without seeing the road, u just aren’t real clear what to do.. other drivers were passing me in trucks with ease.. spraying my car with what seemed to be ten foot waves of water.. after I got into cedar point the rain completely dried up.. by the time I got to my friends house, the water was already rolling off the roads and showing me the way. that wasn’t even a storm that anyone was concerned with, it wasn’t even supposed to rain.. we had cloud cover for like 3 weeks and all of it was going to ohio area that year and dropping a lot of moisture there.. I think someone called it a micro storm.. i’m really big on staying home during storms. had I thought this was going to drop one drop of rain, I would have stayed in. I am telling you, it can happen, and It can happen to the best and brightest, and it can come out of no where in less than 2 seconds. I used to be the first person to cry activism and prevention about so many things weather related, until THAT day.. I have a whole new set of eyes now.

          • debbie October 6, 2015 at 8:49 am

            also steve, what I would like to see different is more flood engineers being hired by communities and counties and states.. maybe its time we rethink where we build, maybe it is not appropriate to build any housing development where water can rise or flood over wash walls or out canyons into neighborhoods.. that’s the real problem here. that water should have never been on those streets, if an area is low lying then no one should be given a building permit. theres too many people dying all over the nation right now, and drainage, lack of levy’s, lack of bridges and enough pilings, dams are not built strong enough, levys are not big enough.. everyone is building what they “think” will hold what “may” be the most amount of water to come from somewhere.. I get stumped when someone is issued a building permit next to a boulder.. i.e. Rockville and springdale… so, theres never going to be another earthquake.. ?? anyways.. that’s all I was bothered about.. but you are correct, ppl do need to take more
            precaution..

    • SteveSGU September 15, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      And now on the same tragic day we have tourists from neighboring states going into a very narrow slot canyon on a rainy day. They could have lived to enjoy that canyon, if they had stayed out of it today. May God comfort everyone.

  • hb bev September 15, 2015 at 11:51 am

    How incredibly sad

  • debbie September 15, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    just saw the gallery, did ok til’ i saw the car seats and booster seats… my heart aches for these families. i cannot even think of anything I could say to a person at this time except i will share in the grief with you, b/c this is NOT FAIR.. -( so sad.

  • beacon September 15, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Debbie, excuse me, but SteveSGU didn’t say floods are preventable, he said the tragedy is if people pay attention. Some folks, granted, are caught off guard, but with nearly everyone having phones now and the ability to check the weather, there are some preventative actions that can be taken. Flash floods are terrible things and this is a terrible tragedy, but people need to take precautions whenever possible. I was raised with a mother who wouldn’t even let us go outside when there was a storm anywhere nearby. Paranoid, perhaps? Safe, probably.

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