Body of 6-year-old girl swept away in storm found

Body of 6-year-old girl swept away in storm found
Willa Rawlings, 6, was swept away in storm flooding near Tonto Basin on Nov. 29, 2019. Her body was found by search crews on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Source: AZ Family)

TONTO BASIN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) ― Search crews found a body Friday belonging to a little girl who was swept away in floodwaters two weeks prior in the Tonto Basin area.

Gila County Sheriff's officials say that the body of 6-year-old Willa Rawlings was recovered around 2:30 p.m. near the Indian Point area on the north side of Roosevelt Lake. She had been missing since her family's truck got caught up in the rushing water of Tonto Creek on Nov. 29.

Willa's grandmother, Trudy Rawlings, released the following statement to Arizona's Family on Friday:

“We feel relieved and we’re so grateful for the closure. We express love and gratitude for volunteers who gave up their time to find her. We believe in the power of prayer. We prayed that we would be at peace.”

Hundreds of people searched around-the-clock for Willa for two weeks. Law enforcement agencies, search crews and volunteers relentlessly scoured the area around Tonto Creek.

[RELATED: Parents of children swept away by flooded creek in Tonto Basin grateful to search teams]

On Black Friday, the Rawlings were with their four children and three nieces when the military-style truck they were in was swept down Tonto Creek. 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, as well.

The family had been 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.

Willa's parents, Daniel and Lacey Rawlings, did not want to talk about what happened that day or why they took the truck through the flooded road with seven children. But Daniel did have this comment: "I will say one thing. People go around the barricades all the time. I'm not justifying my actions one bit," he said. "There could be more done."

While some people have been critical of the couple, others have been incredibly supportive. For that, Daniel and Lacey 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."

As for those 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 Rawlings family is well-known in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) community in Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, about two hours north of Tonto Basin. Family members say they are strong in their faith and believe the children are with their Heavenly Father.

A family friend has created a GoFundMe account to help the family get through this tragedy.

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