- Associated Press - Thursday, September 17, 2015

HILDALE, Utah (AP) - The latest on the deadly flash flooding to hit the Utah-Arizona border region (all times local):

4 p.m.

Authorities are searching for a man who has been missing since Monday, when flood waters hit the Arizona-Utah border.

Mohave County sheriff’s spokeswoman Trish Carter says 33-year-old Ryan Mertlich’s 1995 Geo Tracker was discovered heavily damaged in a flood plain about 15 miles west of Colorado City, Arizona, on Wednesday.

Crews were searching on the ground and by air for any signs of him Thursday.

Carter says Mertlich’s family reported him missing Tuesday, a day after he left a relative’s home in Washington City, Utah, on his way to Hurricane, Utah. His family told authorities he typically drives the back roads.

The region was hit with severe flooding Monday, killing at least 12 people in polygamous towns on the Arizona-Utah border and seven others at Zion National Park.


1 p.m.

Two men whose wives and children died in flash flooding on the Utah-Arizona border say they’re grateful for support coming from outside their small polygamous community.

But Sheldon Black Jr. and Joseph N. Jessop also used a Thursday news conference in Colorado City, Arizona, to decry what they called “religious persecution.”

They belong to a polygamous sect that follows imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs. The majority of the 7,700 residents in the twin towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, are members.

Black lost his wife and four daughters. Jessop’s wives Josephine Jessop and Naomi Jessop and five children also died in the flash flood that swept away two cars Monday.

Black’s 6-year-old son, Tyson Lucas Black, is still missing. Two of Black’s sons and one of Jessop’s sons who survived stood by their fathers but didn’t speak.


This item has been corrected to show the number of children Joseph Jessop lost in the floods was five, not six.


12:42 p.m.

Zion National Park officials say rescuers found the last of seven hikers killed in flash flooding after dropping into rugged, previously unreachable terrain near the narrow canyon where the group was last seen.

Park spokesman David Eaker said the seventh body was found a few miles from popular Keyhole Canyon, in an area that had been off-limits until Thursday amid fears of more flooding.

He says some members of the group from California and Nevada were new to canyoneering, which involves rappelling into pools of water, when they started the excursion into the canyon. They were all in their 40s and 50s.

Eaker says authorities believe they started late in the afternoon, shortly before the storm hit.


11:45 a.m.

Authorities say searchers have found the last body of seven hikers killed in flash flooding that swept through a narrow canyon at Utah’s Zion National Park.

Washington County sheriff’s Detective Nate Abbott confirmed the death Thursday as crews dropped into Keyhole Canyon. The bodies of three men and one woman were found Tuesday, and two other bodies were found Wednesday.

The group of seven people in their 40s and 50s from California and Nevada set out Monday, before park officials closed canyons due to flooding.

Park rangers say the group was told about the danger of flash flooding before they entered the canyon, but there was no way to warn them once the fast-moving waters began to rise.

Rangers say they don’t judge visitors’ technical ability and let them decide whether to go.


10:58 a.m.

Authorities say rescuers are dropping down a narrow canyon in Utah’s Zion National Park to search for the last person missing after raging floodwaters trapped a group of seven hikers.

Six people have been found dead downstream after Monday’s flash flooding, but the danger of more rising water kept rescuers out of the canyon itself until Thursday.

Park spokesman Dave Eaker says authorities are investigating and reviewing policies in the wake of the deaths, but the process to get permits to enter Keyhole Canyon is created at the national level.

Officials say the group that departed Monday was warned that flash flooding was likely. Rangers frequently issue such cautions during the rainy season, but don’t judge visitors’ technical abilities or bar people from entering the canyons.


10:31 a.m.

Authorities have warned residents in a small polygamous town on the Utah-Arizona border to boil their drinking water following deadly flash flooding.

The local water department issued the advisory as a precaution Wednesday after floods tore through the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, sweeping away two vehicles Monday and killing at least 12 people. One boy is still missing.

Washington County Emergency Services in Utah said no contamination has been found, pending water sample testing, but that boiling water for one minute would guarantee it’s safe to drink.

The county said repairs are being made to a spring damaged by the storm.

Flash flooding also hit Zion National Park on Monday, killing six hikers in a narrow canyon. Searchers are still looking for one missing person.

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