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Body found of 6-year-old girl swept away in floodwaters

The body of a 6-year-old girl who has been missing since a car carrying nine members of her family was swept away in floodwaters on November 29 near near Tonto Basin, Arizona, has been found. The Gila County Sheriff's Office said Friday a body had been found several miles from the site where the vehicle carrying 6-year-old Willa Rawlings, her parents, their three other children and four nieces had been swept away. Her body was identified several hours later, officials said.

The bodies of two other children, Willa's 5-year-old brother Colby and 5-year-old cousin Austin, were found on November 30. The rest of the people in the vehicle were rescued. 

"My condolences and prayers go to the Rawlings Family, who have lost three young children and I am grateful we were able to find Willa today," said Gila County Sheriff J. Adam Shepherd said in a statement. "As this concludes this operation this event will have a lasting effect on all of us." 

Hundreds of volunteers joined law enforcement agencies to search for Willa. In a statement to CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO, her grandmother, Trudy Rawlings, said the family feels "relieved" and "grateful for this closure."

willa-rawlings-arizona-floodwaters-2019-12-13.jpg
6-year-old Willa Rawlings. GoFundMe

"We express love and gratitude for volunteers who gave up their time to find her," Rawlings said. "We believe in the power of prayer. We prayed that we would be at peace."  

Arizona was hit by powerful storms on Thanksgiving weekend. The Gila County Sheriff's Office said they received a call around 4 p.m. on Black Friday of a vehicle stuck in Tonto Creek at Bar X Crossing in Tonto Basin, located about 80 miles from Phoenix. The crossing had been closed several hours earlier, KPHO reported.

The current of the flooded creek swept the military-style vehicle carrying the Rawlings downstream. A man and four children made it out of the vehicle and became stranded on a small island. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopters rescued the stranded adult and four children, the Gila County Sheriff's office said.

The Gila County Sheriff's office told KPHO a woman managed to reach the banks on the opposite side of the creek, where she was rescued.

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