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Gilbert man, son drown crossing flooded wash

September 10, 2006

A Gilbert man and his 9-year-old son drowned Saturday crossing a wash flooded with up to 6 feet of water southeast of Apache Junction.

John Doffing, 39, and son Eric were "four wheeling" in a Toyota 4Runner with the man's father and 6-year-old son in a desert area south of the U.S. 60. A Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesman said they were on an unmaintained road when they reached the wash about 2:30 p.m. and entered it.

The current rolled the SUV. Doffing's father and younger son escaped. They clung to a tree until help arrived.

Firefighters found the drowning victims in the back of the 4Runner. It did not appear that they had tried to force their way through the glass, an Apache Junction Fire District official said.

A National Weather Service official in Phoenix said there was little rain in the area at the time. Rain gauges monitored by the Maricopa County Flood Control District showed that up to 1.5 inches of rain had fallen in the area earlier in the day.

But localized rain only contributes to the problem. What matters is how much precipitation fell in the Superstition Mountains, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jerald Monahan said.

Monahan said the family may have been familiar with the area and expected the wash to be dry or shallow.

"People enter these washes, and they just don't realize how misleading that water level and the speed of that water coming through there can be," he said. "Maybe the bottom was cut out before the family got there. If there's water running and you're not sure how deep it is, turn around and go back. Don't chance it."

Attempts to reach the Doffing family were unsuccessful. Deputies are investigating.

Meanwhile, hurried and heavy showers hit various other parts of the Valley as well early Saturday. Washes flooded in Scottsdale, which received more than 1.5 inches of rain in some parts. Buckeye got more than an inch as well.

Skies will be partly cloudy today, but forecasters do not anticipate showers.
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Lindsey Collom
©
Copyright 2007 Arizona Republic

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