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AFR searches for bodies of those swept away in arroyo

Albuquerque Fire Rescue searches a washout near Tramway and Roy for the bodies of three people swept away in an arroyo Tuesday afternoon. (Mike Sandoval/for the Albuquerque Journal)

Firefighters search the diversion ditch for three people who were swept away in the arroyo on Tuesday afternoon. (Mike Sandoval/for the Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Firefighters spent hours searching the end of the diversion channel Tuesday evening after an unsuccessful scramble to save three people swept away in torrential rains.

Tom Ruiz, Albuquerque Fire Rescue spokesman, said swift water rescue and open space units had called off the search for the night at a washout near Tramway and Roy.

He said they would resume searching the area for bodies on Wednesday morning.

“We are here for now because the reports are the victims are past all the rescue points, we are at the recovery stage,” he said.

Ruiz said a bystander reported seeing a person pull themselves from a retention pond along the arroyo but AFR had not found that person or confirmed.

He said AFR is still operating under the idea that three people were swept away and their bodies may turn up at the washout.

The National Weather Service issued an emergency alert around 4 p.m. for flash flooding in the area — calling it a “dangerous and life-threatening situation.”

An official said more than an inch of rain fell in the foothills near Indian School and Tramway NE in 15 minutes.

Around 4:30 p.m., Ruiz said AFR was dispatched to the arroyos after they confirmed three people were floating down the Embudo Arroyo.

For the next hour, swift water rescue units set up along the Embudo Arroyo and North Diversion Channel in Northeast Albuquerque in an attempt to save them.

More than a dozen firefighters, some in harnesses, could be seen standing alongside the diversion ditch at Menaul, scanning the water as it rushed by below.

By Tuesday evening the first responders had abandoned the north diversion ditch.

Miles down the channel, dozens of police and firefighter vehicles parked beside the bank of the washout.

AFR loaded crews on to a fan boat near the bank as another fan boat — with Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County deputies aboard — scanned the water flowing through the washout.

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