Bridge in the works in Tonto Basin following rescues, deaths

State Representative David Cook hopes a $26-million bridge to create a safe way across the creek will be complete within a year.
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 7:31 PM MST
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GILA COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Gila County Sheriff’s Office is stressing the importance of not crossing flooded roads. This comes after a man had to be rescued by helicopter from his car in the Tonto Basin. Many rescues, and even deaths, have happened in that area, so what is being done to help with this issue?

When the Tonto Creek floods, more than 1,000 people are impacted. Many are forced to stay put or drive 40 miles out of the way to get around the flood waters. But now there is hope things will get better.

An intense video out of the Tonto Basin shows DPS Rangers using a helicopter to rescue a man trapped in his truck. He got stuck after driving around the barricades on Tonto Creek yesterday and may now have to pay up for his rescue. The water level was up to his truck windows.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office took to social media reminding the public not to cross flooded washes or drive around barricades because it can turn deadly. Unfortunately, it has. In 2019, officials say a family ignored signs the roads were closed but still tried to cross. As a result, three kids, Austin, Colby, and Willa, all under six, were swept away. Another man was found dead a week earlier, 20 miles north, after he attempted to cross the creek.

“How much is too much? How many lives will it take until this becomes the monetary value that this needs to be done?” state representative David Cooks said. Arizona’s Family previously reported State Representative David Cook has been fighting to add a bridge in that area. They finally broke ground in October. Cook hopes the $26-million bridge to create a safe way across the creek will be complete within a year. “You always have a small group that doesn’t want any bridge or any more growth in that area and things like that, but that ship has sailed. The minute we have school age children living across the creek, it becomes our responsibility as elected officials to do what? Educate and keep people safe in their communities,” Cook said.

The man rescued received a citation from the Sheriff’s office. Tonight there is still a Flood Warning in that area because of the amount of rain that fell. Many low-water crossings are inundated with water, making them impassable.