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Recent TRSAR Missions - Winkleman

Story and photos by Heather Hansen

On June 18th at 0130 hrs, the swift water team of volunteers woke to a phone call and that familiar recording asking for volunteers. On this morning, the recording was for a mission near Winkleman, Arizona, which is South of Globe. It was reported that a man and his three children had gone rafting on the Gila River the previous afternoon and went missing a few hours later.

It was approximately 3:30 pm on June 17th when a man took two rafts and three young children and put in the Gila River for what was supposed to be a short rafting trip. The children's grandfather dropped the group off upstream and then drove his truck downstream to a park which was supposed to be the take out point. After several hours had passed and the man and his children had not arrived at the pick up point, the grandfather began to worry and called for help.

A helicopter was called to the scene by local authorities and the area the grandfather described from the drop off point to the pick up point was searched. The helicopter and local search crews found no sign of the group. At some point late in the night, the decision was made to call TRSAR to come and search the river with their kayaks.

Shortly after dawn on the 18th, TRSAR volunteers put their kayaks in at the reported drop off point and kayaked to the take out point some distance downstream. TRSAR volunteers also reported no sign of the family or their gear.

Rescuers discussed the situation and were in the process of planning another trip down the river to search for the group when a woman's screams grabbed the attention of searchers. A female family member waiting at the park was one of the first to spot the missing family members get out of a vehicle that pulled into Command.

The father and the children were thirsty and hungry but uninjured.

After talking with the father, rescuers soon realized the man had put their rafts in the river much further upstream than reported and as a result, the helicopter and searchers missed the group. TRSAR and the helicopter crew began searching the river at The Shores when in fact, the group put their boats in about 4 miles upstream at Christmas.

The father reported their boats had capsized shortly after putting in at Christmas. The man and the three children were able to rescue themselves and they made it to the shore opposite the highway. Since it was late in the day, the father decided not to cross the river with the children until morning. One of the little girls told searchers they spent the night in the wash. In the morning the group crossed the river and hiked up to the highway where a motorist picked them up and drove them to the park where command was set up.

TRSAR volunteers and others involved in the search were very grateful the outcome of this mission was a happy one.



Copyright 2017 Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Squad

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