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Family of kids swept away in creek have deep Arizona roots

TONTO BASIN, Ariz. — Dozens of people kept searching Monday for a 6-year-old girl while her extended family with deep roots in the mountain communities of eastern Arizona mourned the loss of two other children who were swept away by floodwaters last week.

Nine people from the family that founded several businesses and is active in their church, were riding in an oversized military-style truck Friday and tried to cross an overflowing creek.

It has been blocked off with barricades and signs during a storm that dropped an estimated 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain in the Tonto Basin area, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.

Authorities were still searching for Willa Rawlings, whose parents Daniel and Lacey Rawlings, escaped from the truck with four other children. Her brother, Colby Rawlings, and cousin, Austin Rawlings, both 5, were found dead Saturday.

Crews planned to resume the search for the missing girl at dawn Tuesday.

Friends say the Rawlings family is heavily involved in their community and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Daniel Rawlings is a church leader and helps run a family contracting business.

His grandparents founded the area’s first movie theater in Show Low, according to old newspaper articles, and later opened a drive-in theater for recreational vehicles.

Friend David Merrill said the Rawlings family volunteers in cemetery cleanups, and Lacey Rawlings’ family gets together each year to make and distribute clothing and toiletries to people in need.

“They’re loved by thousands and thousands of people,” said Merrill, one of hundreds of volunteers who joined the search on Sunday.

Funeral services were planned Friday for Austin Rawlings.

“We ask those attending the service to please dress colorfully and bring your smiles,” her mom, Lauren Rawlings, wrote on Facebook.