Hildale mayor calls flooding fatalities 'a wake up call'

Hildale mayor calls flooding fatalities 'a wake up call.' (Photo: Chris Miller/KUTV2News)

(KUTV) As search for one missing child continues, the reality of how severe the flash flood was for Hildale continues to set in more as each day passes, the southern Utah Mayor Phillip Barlow says.

"It's just a horrific event that was completely out of our control," Barlow said.

Two vehicles were involved in Monday's fatal flash flood that took 12 lives, Barlow said in a news conference Wednesday morning.

"We just lost a huge number of our people, of our community," Barlow told the media at Hildale town hall. "I think we are all going to be thinking different about this water."

Barlow expressed appreciation for Utah's Gov. Gary Herbert's condolences and the personal visit from Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox who viewed the aftermath of the flood on Tuesday.

"(Cox) was very supportive and humbled, and he did actually meet with some of the family members and it was a very tender time," Barlow said.

Ten people died out of the 11 who were inside the large white van. Among those were the wives of the Jessop family; Josephine and Naomi. There were also eight children, ranging from 5 to 11 years old. One child survived and was found by the 15-passenger van.

The second vehicle, a suburban filled with five passengers lost two people in the flood. Della Johnson Black and one of her children died. Two other males survived. Tyson Lucas Black, 6, is still missing.

The six-year-old boy is the only person now unaccounted for as of Wednesday.

Three mothers who died were all biological sisters.

"This is as much fatality (associated with) any flooding in the state that we know of," he said of the historic magnitude of the flooding.

A wake up call

Barlow said the fatalities from the Hildale flood combined with news of six people dying from a flash flood in Zion National Park within the same time come as a "wake up call."

"I've gone down and looked at those floods (in the past). How close do I get to them? The kids get out of the vehicle and go over by the edge and want to look at it, how close am I going to let them get?"

Barlow said the town is used to the regular Southern Utah flooding and they are "accustomed" to going out and watching it.

"I think we're all going to be thinking differently about this water and the reality (of what has happened)," Barlow said.

A witness told the mayor 20 minutes after a thunderstorm, the rain was gone but he saw the water come down the street. About 15 minutes later the water had already subsided enough to where the witness could walk down to the street.

The mayor said he was "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of support. He expressed appreciation for all the help from volunteers, the Utah National Guard and other state agencies helping out the community.

At this time, there are no plans for a community-wide funeral.

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