Video: 20th body found after Arkansas flash flood

  1. Closed captioning of: 20th body found after Arkansas flash flood

    >>> breaking news from arkansas. the death toll from a flash flood that swept through a rural campground has risen to 20. officials announced they recovered the body of the last person known missing. john yang following the search live in langley, arkansas, what are you learning, john?

    >> reporter: contessa, they did make that announcement just a few minutes ago. the body was found maybe 45 minutes ago. they are not giving us a lot of details about the body. yesterday when they found the 19th body they were able to quickly say it was tentatively identified and the missing list went down by one. now they are saying there is no one remaining on the known missing list but they are not saying this body has been tentatively identified. the search will continue even though everyone they knew was unaccounted for, in the area and had not been accounted for, has not been found. they are going to continue the search for several more days. they want to be absolutely confident there is no one else there. there may be people they don't know about, neighbors and friends have not reported as missing. they are focusing on these big piles of debris, this stuff that was swept down with the surging waters. a lot of it in the bends of the river got caught and debris built up, some of it as high as 30 feet, some as long as 120 feet. they are pulling it apart using bulldozers, backhoes, chainsaws. they are finding not just trees and branching and limbs, they are finding wildlife getting swept up, vehicles getting swept up and that's where the focus is because that is where two of the last three bodies have been found the last body was found in the river, but not no one is officially listed as unaccounted in this flash flood .

    >> john, thank you very much for the update. mike beebe is the governor of arkansas . governor, good for you to give us a few minutes of your time.

    >> sure.

    >> where do you go from here?

    >> as wus just reported the search continues. you never know whether or not there is going to be somebody who was not listed by people who knew that folks were in the campground. you really can't afford to call it off immediately. hopefully there won't be any more bodies found, people unaccounted for, but you don't want to take that chance. you want to continue the search. now, where they go from here, obviously, this is a federal camp site . i was asked whether or not we were going to close this permanently. that is not my call. certainly the federal government will review the procedures. this is an unmanned camp site from the standpoint of having amenities you would expect some of the manned camp sites to have. it is a very remote and rural area . that's why people like to go there because it is that remote and rural.

    >> how much did the fact that there were very few cell phone signals in this area or none at all, no cell phone towers in the area, how much does that compromise the search for these folks?

    >> it may have compromised to an extent the search. we were able to get portable cell phone towers in quickly. had there been cell phone service at the time of the event not sure how much difference it would have made. it was 3:00 in the morning, likely everyone is going to be asleep. the weather service did issue a warning about 2:00 in the morning but unless you were awake or had one of those weather radios that would have picked it up, there is probably no way those folks would have been warned. it happened extremely quickly as flash floods do. at the worst possible time when nobody is i wake or able to transmit the warning to other people.

    >> right.

    >> luckily there were two people that were awake. they actually did warn some folks. it happened so quickly they were only able to warn a few people in their immediate area.

    >> just a tragic situation. governor beebe, thank you for your

updated 6/14/2010 6:45:14 PM ET 2010-06-14T22:45:14

State police say they're "quite confident" the body of a young girl found Monday is the last one they were looking for after a flash flood swept through an Arkansas campground.

Capt. Mike Fletcher says police want to compare DNA collected from the family to the body before officially identifying the flood's 20th victim.

Dozens of people were feared missing after the pre-dawn Friday flood, but authorities narrowed their search Sunday to just one person known to have been camping at the Albert Pike Recreation Area.

Fletcher says that although girl's body is believed to be the last one sought, crews will conduct a limited search Tuesday. But it will be scaled back from the hundreds of people who took to the woods and river in the past few days.

A heavy storm sent a wall of water rushing down the river while most campers were sleeping, leaving them scrambling in the dark for safety amid the area's steep terrain. Floodwaters rose up to 8 feet per hour, pouring through the remote valley with such force that they peeled asphalt from roads. Cabins along the river banks were severely damaged, and mobile homes were tossed on their sides.

Forecasters had warned of the approaching danger in the area during the night, but campers could easily have missed the advisories because the area is isolated and cell phone service is poor.

Crews had searched some fifty miles of river and tributaries at least twice, and three or four times in some areas, Forest Service Incident Commander Mike Quesinberry said. The terrain made it impossible to bring in heavy equipment to unlock some of the huge debris piles that collected along the river. One measured 30 feet high and more than 100 feet long, he said.

"This is an area that's so rugged, there's so much debris ... you can't get to it," Fletcher said.

Slideshow: Fatal flooding in Arkansas Eighteen of the 20 victims have been publicly identified, among them seven children age 7 or younger. Eight of the 18 were from Louisiana, seven were from Texas and three were from Arkansas.

Among the victims were 23-year-old Leslie Jez and her 3-year-old son, Kaden, of Foreman, Ark., and Jez's 43-year-old mother, Sheri Wade, of New Boston, Texas. Leslie's husband and Kaden's father, Adam Jez, survived.

The family set out to the campground Thursday, a day earlier than normal because of Adam's work schedule. It was a decision that proved fatal.

"(Kaden's) only vocabulary when it wasn't 'mama' and 'daddy' consisted of tractors and horses," Leslie's grandfather, former Arkansas legislator Charles "Bubba" Wade, said Sunday. "I can just see her holding the baby" during the flood, Wade said, his words choked with grief.

Wade said camping trips and the outdoors were commonplace for his large family. His children and grandchildren went to Boy and Girl Scout events at the campground, and Kaden and Leslie rode horses and rounded up cattle together.

"Little Kaden had been up here on my 81st birthday, sitting on my lap with cowboy boots on," said Wade, who spent 18 years as a state lawmaker and introduced the legislation that created the nearby Millwood State Park.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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