12 found dead, 1 boy missing as crews clean up flood-ravaged Hildale

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HILDALE, Utah -- Cleanup is underway in a cloistered community devastated by flash flooding that is believed to have killed 13 people.

Crews are searching for 6-year-old Tyson Lucas Black, the child who is still missing.

Washington County identified three of the flash flood victims late Tuesday night as Josephine Jessop, Naomi Jessop and Della Black, while announcing a memorial fund to help the victims.

On Tuesday, 12 bodies were recovered from the flooding. The final victim, Black, remained missing.

Hildale Mayor Phillip Barlow said two families comprised of three women and 13 children, ranging in ages from 4 to teenage years, had stopped to see the waters from a recent storm when they were caught up by the raging waters that swept them away.

"We just realize that this was an act of God and something that we can’t control," the mayor said.

Three surviving children were treated at local hospitals and released, Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said.

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Joseph Jessop, a father of one of the families, expressed gratitude for people's sympathies.

"We express our sincere gratitude for the kindness," he said at a news conference Tuesday.

Jessop said his family had been involved in the raid on the FLDS Church's Texas ranch, where hundreds of children were seized in accusations of child abuse (that later led to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs' conviction on child sex assault related to underage marriages) and recently were evicted by the United Effort Plan Trust (the land holdings arm controlled by the courts over accusations Jeffs mismanaged it).

"Now we not only have lost our home, but have lost our caring companions and the sweet happy children that made our home a refuge from the storm," Jessop said, his voice shaking with emotion.

"We know God is guiding all things and trust in Him to heal our wounded hearts at this time," he added.

John Barlow watched the victims try to get to safety. He said the flood waters hit fast, pushing their vehicles down a wash as they screamed for help.

"As they began to try to back up or do whatever they were trying to turn right here into the yard, the water at that point was just too high to where it was just picking those vehicles right up," Barlow told FOX 13.

Barlow's own car was washed downstream. The crumpled wreckage of it was found miles away in Short Creek, which divides Hildale from neighboring Colorado City, Ariz.

The wreckage of John Barlow's car, miles from his home in Hildale. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

The wreckage of John Barlow's car, miles from his home in Hildale. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Hildale has sought a disaster declaration from the state. On Tuesday, Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox toured the destruction and offered his condolences to the families of the victims. He pledged state assistance, including national guard troops and relief money.

"It is unbelievable and something you never expect to see or have to deal with and the community is just really in shock as we all are," Cox said in an interview with FOX 13.

Late Tuesday, an advisory was sent to Hildale and Colorado City residents by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, urging them to boil their water to avoid any possible bacteria contamination from the flooding.

Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox tours the destruction of the Hildale flooding with Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and Hildale Mayor Phillip Barlow. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox tours the destruction of the Hildale flooding with Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and Hildale Mayor Phillip Barlow. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Hildale and Colorado City are the headquarters of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, led by Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for child sex assault related to underage "marriages." The communities, notorious for being closed off from the rest of the world, were in a state of shock.

Women and girls, wearing the long dresses known for the FLDS, stopped to watch the cleanup of the destruction. Some would wave to reporters documenting it as well.

Guy Timpson, who lives in the community, said it has been shattering.

"I don’t know that we’ll ever forget it. It’s like a 9/11 to us. Literally, it’s gut wrenching," he said.

Hildale residents watch cleanup efforts. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Hildale residents watch cleanup efforts. (Photo by Ben Winslow)