Two children dead, one missing in Arizona after RV is swept into flooded creek

"We don't quit. We're continuing especially with the fact that it's cold weather, adverse conditions and young children," a sheriff's deputy said of ongoing search efforts.

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By Phil McCausland

Two children are dead and one is missing after heavy rainfall flooded a creek in Gila County, Arizona, and swept away a recreational vehicle carrying them and six others on Friday, authorities said.

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday, the Gila County Sheriff's Office responded to a call that said an RV with seven children and two adults inside had gotten stuck in Tonto Creek while trying to cross over it near the town of Tonto Basin, Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd said in a statement.

By the time rescue crews arrived, the "military-type" vehicle was completely submerged in the water, NBC News affiliate KPNX reported. Barricades were setup across the road and there were multiple signs that warned drivers to not cross the flooded roadway.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety used helicopters to rescue an adult and four children from a small sandbar where they had been stranded and picked up the second adult from the creek's shore.

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But three children, between the ages of five and 10, were still missing as of early Saturday morning, the Gila County Sheriff's Office said.

The bodies of two children were recovered later that morning, authorities said, and their families were notified. One of them was a 5-year-old, KPNX reported.

A search operation remains underway to locate the third missing child, the sheriff's office said.

Multiple agencies, including law enforcement and local fire departments, are working together to continue the search near Tonto Basin, about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix.

"It's a very large area. There's a lot of vegetation that the creek goes through on the way to the river," Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Phil Smith told KPNX. "It's very cold. We've got very cold temperatures in the air as well as the water temperatures, which are from snowpack and snowmelt right now."

Danise Ransier Parrish, a local resident, told NBC News that many in the area had formed together to create a search party on Friday night. Eventually the sheriff told the group to head home and return in the morning to begin the search again.

The family was in the area visiting relatives for a family reunion celebration, KPNX reported.

Arizona Department of Transportation reported that heavy rain and snowfall had caused roadways across Arizona to close on Thanksgiving, which is what caused the creek to flood.

NBC News reached out to the Gila County Sheriff's Office for an update on the situation on Saturday morning.

"We don't quit," Smith said. "We're continuing especially with the fact that it's cold weather, adverse conditions and young children."