TONTO BASIN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The parents of 6-year-old Willa Rawlings are grateful for the law enforcement agencies, search crews, and volunteers who are looking for their little girl. Six-year-old Willa is still missing after the family's truck was swept down Tonto Creek.
Daniel Rawlings and his wife Lacey are devastated and heartbroken. But they are thankful by the countless messages and prayers they've received over the last four days. "I want everyone to know we feel extremely loved and blessed to have such a great friendship and families surrounding us," Daniel said Monday. "There's been hundreds of people supporting us, searching for our children. I want to embrace them in my arms and tell them one by one, which is not possible."
Returning from a family visit, the Rawlingses were with their four children and three nieces when the military-style truck they were in was swept down Tonto Creek Friday. The family was crossing the flooded creek at the Bar X Crossing, which is east of State Route 188. The crossing had been closed due to flooding, and there were barricades in place. "I will say one thing. People go around the barricades all the time. I'm not justifying my actions one bit," Daniel said. "There could be more done."
The body of the couple's 5-year-old son, Colby, was found the next day. Colby's cousin Austin, also 5, was found dead, too. The search continues for Colby's sister, Willa. Search crews are determined to find her.
The Rawlingses say Colby and Willa were best friends. "Colby had the ability to make everyone who knew him feel like they were his best friend," Lacey said. "He loved cars, the movies; he was obsessed with Lightning McQueen. Willa was our spitfire. She constantly kept us on our toes. She was very sure of herself and very confident of herself."
"Her favorite wasn't pink or purple," Daniel added. "She made it very clear her favorite color was magenta. And she made it clear to correct you if you got it wrong."
Daniel and Lacey did not want to talk about what happened Friday or why they took the truck through the flooded road with seven children. Instead, their focus now is to find Willa and to be strong for their two older children who are 11 and 9. "I mean their life is shaken," Lacey said. "Their world has been turned upside down, and it's waves, just like our emotions. It's up and down. It changes constantly. They cry; they miss them. They hold their stuffed animals. All of those things are going on."
While some people have been critical of the couple, others have been incredibly supportive. For that, the Rawlingses are appreciative. "The amount of love being shown, I didn't know it was possible," Lacey said. "We feel it. We feel all the prayers. We feel it all. We're extremely grateful," said Lacey.
And then there are people who are looking to assign blame. "We don't have anything to say to them," Daniel said. "Everybody's a critic, and they're keyboard warriors. Those people may not have ever gone through something tragic in their life." "I hope they don't have to go through something like this and learn what it really feels like," Lacey said.
The Rawlingses are a well-known LDS family in the tight community of Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, which is about two hours north of Tonto Basin. The family is strong in their faith and believe Colby and Willa are with their Heavenly Father.
A family-friend has created a GoFundMe account to help the family get through this tragedy.