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
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