It is still undecided if a father’s decision to drive his family past barricades and into a swollen creek last week will result in criminal charges.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office says it is investigating what happened Nov. 29 that resulted in the deaths of three children.
Daniel Rawlings, of Show Low, reportedly drove a military-style truck into the creek with his wife, four children and three nieces. The truck reportedly got stuck in the creek and three of the children were swept downstream.
“We began an investigation into the events leading up to this tragedy shortly after the initial response and have been working on it since, separately from the search and rescue efforts,” said Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd.
The sheriff’s office will submit their findings to the Gila County Attorney’s Office, which will decide what, if any, charges are filed.
“We have had initial contact with the county attorney, but most likely it will be some time before they are ready to make a decision,” Shepherd said.
Officials had put up barricades at the crossing because of the high flow from a winter storm.
In an interview with AZFamily.com, Daniel Rawlings said, “I will say one thing: people go around the barricades all the time and I am not justifying my actions one bit. There could be more done.”
The family had reportedly celebrated Thanksgiving at a grandparent’s home.
Daniel reportedly drove the military-style truck around the barricades and into the creek to cross. He and four children in the truck were rescued from an island while his wife made it to a nearby bank. The bodies of 5-year-old Colby and 5-year-old Austin were found in the creek Saturday. Rescuers continue to look for the body of Willa Rawlings, 6.
Undersheriff Mike Johnson said county employees had put barricades up at the crossing the morning of Nov. 29. He said there are also permanent signs posted that warn motorists not to enter the creek when it is flooded.
He said they don’t have the manpower to have a deputy stationed around the clock at the crossings to cite residents for crossing the creek when it is flooded.
He said the barricades were still up Tuesday.