HILDALE – A solemn crowd gathered Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Park in Hildale to pay respects to the Hildale residents who lost their lives in flash flooding that swept through the small community on Sept. 14, leaving death and devastation in its wake.
Two vehicles occupied by 16 Hildale residents were carried away in the floodwaters, and Della Black, Josephine Jessop, Naomi Jessop and nine children ages 4 to 11 were killed.
“It’s an opportunity for us to reflect and remember these individuals, these precious lives that were lost,” Washington County Sheriff’s Detective Nate Abbott said.
One 6-year-old boy, Tyson Lucas Black, still remains missing, and rescue crews continue efforts to find him.
“It’s tough. We still have a lot of volunteers out there … working day and night, and they’re still working even as we speak,” Abbott said. “Recovery efforts are ongoing right now, and they will continue to do that.”
Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow opened the public memorial service, stating that flash floods are not unusual in the neighboring towns of Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona, and it is a common activity for community members to go watch the flooding when it happens.
“As we watched these events take place,” he said, “I’ve often pondered what would happen if we had two of those on top of each other. Well, we found out.”
Sheldon Black Jr., husband to Della Black and father of two of the children who died in the flood, shared soft-spoken but deeply touching words of gratitude to everyone involved in the rescue efforts.
“We’re a very close family,” Black said. “I know that Della would want to be with the children. I know she is now.”
Joseph Jessop Sr., who lost wives Josephine and Naomi, along with seven of his children, delivered a statement of faith and forgiveness.
“I wouldn’t want to complain against God and his purposes,” Jessop said.
“It’s comforting to me that they all went together,” he went on to say.
One of the children who survived the flood, Joseph Jessop Jr., recounted what he felt when he saw the floodwater come up over the bank.
“My heart was pounding a thousand beats per minute, just whacking like a sledgehammer,” the boy said, “but I know that Heavenly Father wanted this to happen.”
All those who spoke thanked the rescue crews and volunteers who came to offer the town aid. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he was proud that Utah is ranked No. 1 in the nation for volunteering.
“I come here today representing 3 million Utahns,” Herbert said. “Today, we the people of Utah mourn with you.”
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- Search continues for 6-year-old boy in aftermath of Hildale flood
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