Risk of Flash Flood and Fire Fails to Deter Visitors to Whitewater
Nine people are dead and one other is missing after a flash flood struck a swimming hole in Payson, Arizona. According to firefighters, more than a hundred people were swimming at the Cold Springs swimming hole Saturday when a thunderstorm struck.
Officials say the storm struck an area 8 miles upstream that had recently been ravaged by a wildfire. The ensuing waves quickly flooded the canyon where the people were swimming, with practically no warning. A witness said a 6 foot tall, 40 foot wide wave swept through the canyon at 45 mph, taking down trees and boulders.
The nine people who lost their lives were: Miguel Garnica, 27 and his wife Maria Raya, 26, and their children Emily, 3 and Mia, 5; Maria Raya’s brother, Javier Raya, 14, and sister Maribel Raya, 24; Maribel Raya’s daughter daughter Erika Raya, 2; the Raya’s mother Celia Garcia, 60, and her grandson Jonathan Leon, 13. Police say 27-year-old Hector Garnica is still missing.
Violent Currents and Wildfires Make Whitewater a Dangerous Swimming Spot
Unfortunately, flash floods are a common occurrence during monsoon season. These dangers apply to swimming spots in California too, including the Whitewater River. Despite warning from the agencies including the Desert Water Agency (DWA) and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, people continue to flock to Whitewater to swim.
In May, several public safety agencies including the DWA dropped watermelons into the river to demonstrate the dangers of the currents. DWA representatives say that aside from the preserve, the Whitewater River is not safe for swimming, especially with children. Not only is it unsafe, but it is also illegal. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) closed Whitewater Canyon for the summer due to wildfire risks.
Visitors are allowed to swim at Whitewater Preserve, but access is limited because there is only room for 50 cars to park. Beyond that, visitors can get a ticket for parking on the public lands. The closure is not arbitrary—the danger of wildfires is very real in this area. Along with the risk for a flash flood like the one that struck Payson, swimming at Whitewater is simply not worth the danger.
“We are heartbroken for the families affected by the Payson flash flood. Please stay away from dangerous rivers like Whitewater this summer. Find safer alternatives for cooling off with your family,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.