Sent on 9/22/2015 2:51:34 PM
On Monday, September 21, 2015, at approximately 3:53 PM, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department received a 9-1-1 call about two individuals who appeared stranded at Tanque Verde Falls. The following rescue operation would last 12 hours and involved three Search & Rescue deputies, 10 volunteers with the Southern Arizona Rescue Association (SARA), and a helicopter with crew. The stranded individuals were two young men, 19 and 21, from Marana. As they responded to the situation, deputies learned about two individuals who were stranded on the opposite side of Tanque Verde Creek, at the upper Tanque Verde Falls. The initial caller stated they couldn’t hear the trapped men as the rushing flood waters were too loud, they could only see the two men signaling for help. There was also a dog stuck on the rocks in or near the water, unable to get out. The stranded men did not have access to a cell phone and were unable to call for help themselves. A plan was put in action, where Search & Rescue deputies would try a back route and get as close as possible to the men by using an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). They would then hike the remaining distance. The lead deputy had meanwhile arrived on scene and had visual contact with the young men. From a distance, and without other means of communication, he was unable to properly assess the condition of the two. The deputy found a dog nearby, which belonged to the young men on the other side. It was 11:30 PM when the other two Search & Rescue deputies reached the stranded men. They found them without shoes or cell phone. Their feet were injured . Unable to hike them out, deputies and SARA volunteers prepared to stay overnight and conclude the operation the next day. They then received weather reports of additional storms moving into the area, combined with a flash flood warning. The decision was made to use the temporarily improved weather conditions to try and attempt a rescue hoist by helicopter. The Sheriff’s Department helicopter crew was called out, went to the airport, and flew to Tanque Verde Falls. They managed to hoist the two young men and volunteers to safety at approximately 12:42 AM. The deputies stayed behind in order to hike back to and retrieve the ATV. The operation was concluded at approximately 3:45 AM on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. At times, flow gauges upstream from the location of the two Marana men indicated a water flow of more than 1,000 feet per second. They were trapped approximately 0.25 miles from the location where a young man died recently after jumping off the cliffs. Finally, deputies learned about a second dog the men had brought with them. That dog, a black and grey, 13-year-old healer, remains unaccounted for. The young men were picked up by family members and did not require further medical treatment. We would like to take this opportunity and remind the public to heed publicized warnings of inclement weather and avoid venturing out into the desert or the mountains during those times.