Father And Son Rescued From Rising Waters


Two people from Bellmont, west of Flagstaff, had to be rescued after they became stranded by the rising floodwaters of the East Verde River Saturday night near Crackerjack Mine Road.

Thomas Warber, 38, and his 12-year-old son Tristen, were on an elk hunting trip at the base of the Mogollon Rim when they became separated from their vehicle by rising floodwaters, Sgt. Terry Hudgens with the Gila County Sheriff's office said.

"They were on a trip with a couple other people and went out on their own to find some elk," Hudgens said.

Warber and his son spotted a couple of elk on the opposite bank of the East Verde River Saturday evening and followed them.

By the time they started back to their truck, they found they were cut off by the swollen river, Hudgens said.

When the two did not return when they said they would, the other members of their party became worried and called for help, he said.

He said Warber and his son were able to contact searchers and provide them with directions by using handheld two-way radios.

Hudgens said deputies arrived on the scene about 11 p.m. and, after assessing the situation, called in Tonto Search and Rescue to assist.

"This was a very difficult rescue. When the team started out they tried to approach from the west, but found the terrain too rough," Hudgens said.

The team decided instead to go over the top of Crackerjack Ridge, he added.

"We inserted two teams from Forest Road 67 near the airport, and another along Crackerjack Ridge," Bill Pitterle with Tonto Search and Rescue said.

"I spotted them Sunday morning at about 12:30 from the top of Crackerjack Ridge when Mr. Warber held up his cell phone," Pitterle said.

"There was a deep canyon separating us, so I had a team go in from the south end of East Verde Estates," he said.

The team made it to the stranded hunters at about 1 a.m., but before they got back three hours later at 4 a.m., rescuers almost found themselves stranded, Pitterle said.

"When they first went in, they had to cross a trickle of water, but rains became really heavy, and by the time they got back to the spot where the trickle was, they found themselves cut off by what had become a fast-moving stream," Pitterle said.

He said rescuers were able to rig a line across the swollen waters and get the two safely back to their vehicle.

Warber and his son were released and allowed to return to their campsite, Pitterle said.

It was an "extremely complicated" rescue because of the terrain, weather conditions and time of day it occurred, he said.

"This is what we do, rescuing people, but I would advise hunters, or anyone planning an outing, to make sure they are aware of weather conditions before they go," Pitterle said.

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