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Front Page » August 1, 2006 » Local News » Flash flood claims one child, second presumed dead
Published 3,356 days ago

Flash flood claims one child, second presumed dead

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A Ford Bronco and a child safety seat come to rest after a flash flood swept the vehicle down a wash in the Consumers Canyon area Sunday afternoon. The flash flood claimed the life of one 5-year-old boy and a missing 1-year-old child is presumed dead. The Bronco was occupied by the family of Josh Seal and his wife, Courtney. The young passengers in the vehicle included 5-year-old Levi, 3-year-old Brooklynn and 1-year-old Jayden.

A severe thunderstorm along the eastern edge of the Wasatch Plateau sent a wall of water 20 feet deep down a wash in the Consumers Canyon area Sunday afternoon, inundating a sports utility vehicle.

The flash flood claimed the life of one 5-year-old boy and a missing 1-year-old is presumed dead.

The National Weather Service reported that a strong thunderstorm cell formed along the base of the mountains at about 2:45 p.m. on July 30.

The rain came down in a concentrated area, only a few miles across, probably amounting to about two inches in a 90-minute period.

Rainfall eventually fed into a couple of major washes. It was at one of the washes, where an apron crossing allows vehicles to cross the road near the Wildcat coal loadout, where a family of five attempted to cross Garley Canyon Wash at approximately 4 p.m.

The vehicle, an early 1980s Ford Bronco was occupied by the family of Josh Seal and his wife, Courtney. Also in the vehicle were 5-year-old Levi, 3-year-old Brooklynn and 1-year-old Jayden.

"The driver said they were crossing the wash and suddenly there was this wall of water," indicated Capt. Guy Adams of the Carbon County Sheriff's Office. "The vehicle started to move sideways and the parents unstrapped their kids and tried to get out. The vehicle turned over and was swamped."

Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova and Captain Guy Adams take questions from the upstate media in a Monday morning press conference near the old Pinnacle Canyon Academy. At that time the search was just resuming but was called off for part of the day due to more thunderstorms and the danger they could cause to searchers.

In the process of attempting to save the youngsters, the parents were reportedly able to grab the two oldest children, but the couple's 1-year-old son was washed away by the raging flash flood water.

The Bronco was reportedly swept nearly one mile downstream before the sports utility vehicle came to rest.

The father remained in the vehicle with one child. But during the process of being pushed downstream, the mother and daughter were washed out of the truck.

As the water started to recede, the mother apparently went downstream and found her daughter, but couldn't find the baby.

Upstream from where the vehicle was hit by the wall of water and a few minutes earlier, two all-terrain vehicle riders were also caught up in the deluge.

The riders purportedly had to abandon the ATVs and watched as the machines floated downstream.

The two riders started to follow the wash looking for the machines and ran into the SUV, which was on its side in the mud.

The ATV riders used a cell phone to call 911. The call came into the public safety dispatch center in Price at 4:15 p.m.

Emergency personnel responded immediately and, arriving on scene, the crews began to administer CPR to the 5-year-old boy.

The parents and 3-year-old girl were taken to Castleview Hospital, while University of Utah AirMed was called in to transport Levi directly to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Levi reportedly died Monday afternoon

After doctors stabilized Brooklynn, the young girl was also transported to Primary Children's Medical Center.

Searchers travel down one of the washes above the golf course looking for signs of the lost child right after the accident. The going was tough and muddy.

Utah Highway Patrol troopers, Carbon County sheriff's deputies, Helper police officers and Price fire department personnel turned the truck upright to check to see if they could find the baby, but to no avail.

"The responders at the scene were devastated when they couldn't find the child," said Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova in a press conference Monday morning.

The search for the one-year-old began immediately, as volunteers, fire department personnel from three agencies, the Carbon County Sheriff's Search and Rescue and various police agencies began to scour the washes down stream.

Crews went downstream from the wrecked vehicle while other emergency teams began in Garley Canyon, behind Carbon Country Club golf course, and worked their way upstream.

Materials that had reportedly been in the Bronco were spotted floating downstream in that area. Numerous concerned local residents watched the water for signs of the little boy from the canyon, through the golf course and where the wash empties into the Price River.

Initially, there was some confusion as to whether rescue teams near the golf course were searching in the right canyon. Cordova was contacted by a number of people who said that they should be looking in Gordon Creek or in another wash area. Because of this Cordova enlisted the help of Gust Kalatzes, who owns an airplane at the Carbon County Airport. Kalatzes and Cordova went up in the plane and traced out the fingers of the washes to the spot where the SUV was located.

"We were correct in where we were searching so we continued on," said Cordova later.

The search continued until around 7:15 p.m. when units were gathered together near the golf course maintenance shops and the search was reconfigured to include areas farther down the drainage. That search continued until dark and at 9:20 p.m. units were called together again. They were told that the operation would resume again at 7 a.m. Monday, but that what had been a search and rescue operation would become a recovery operation on Monday.

Air Med comes in for a landing to pick up victims of the accident. Another medical incident in the county had both Air Med and Life Flight coming into the area at the same time.

The water that had come down the canyon had been so powerful that it actually washed out one of the holes at the golf course. Mud and debris flowed freely for about two hours and then the water began to slow down. By Monday morning when the search resumed it had become just a trickle. And while the operation had become a recovery, units from all over the area joined in the effort. Along with the local elements that searched the night before, professional searchers came from Utah County, Emery County and the Rocky Mountain Search Dogs.

Searchers continued the search of approximately six miles from where the truck was overtaken, to where the wash empties into the Price River.

"If we don't find him in that six-mile search area we will expand the search to include more of the Price River drainage," stated Cordova. "This is a devastating thing for the family and for the community. We are asking that private citizens do not join in on the initial search because of the dangers. However, should the search area expand, we may ask the public for their help."

When asked by the upstate media that was present at the press conference about how hard it would be to find a one year old in the drainage Cordova related it to the power of the water.

"The two guys that found the vehicle are still looking for their four wheelers," he told them. "If we can't find those, think about how hard it is to find a baby."

Brooklynn is at Primary Children's Medical Center, where she is in stable condition. Levi is list as critical. The parents are commuting back and forth between their recovery of their two older children and the search for their young son.

Monday afternoon also brought on other problems. In many places the silt in the wash is three or four feet deep and more thunder storms were looming on the horizon with thunder, lightening and probably more torrential rains somewhere.

Searchers in the wash were warned of rising water levels Monday when rainfall threatened the area with another wave of flooding.

"This is absolutely the worst kind of thing we go through in law enforcement," said Adams. "Our heart goes out to these people for their loss and we hope we can provide some answers for them soon."

As of press time the search was continuing in the local area, although weather conditions could halt the search temporarily at any time.

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