AFR recovers 2 bodies from ABQ channel washout

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Firefighters pulled the bodies of two men from the end of a diversion channel Wednesday as they searched for people swept away during Tuesday’s rainstorm.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue spokesman Tom Ruiz said both bodies were spotted — hours apart — using a drone as firefighters searched a washout at Tramway and Roy. The bodies, which were found in close proximity, have been identified based on their descriptions as two of the three people swept down the diversion channel Tuesday.

“More times than not the victims that are recovered … have been discovered in that specific area, due to the topography and how the water washes out,” he said.

Ruiz said AFR will keep looking over the area on foot and with drones in case there is a third body, acknowledging that there were reports that one of the three people was able to get out of the arroyo on their own on Tuesday.

“We’re not quite sure if that person was able to get out or not so we will continue our recovery efforts until they are exhausted,” he said. “… If not, perhaps that person was able to successfully get out on their own.”

Ruiz could not recall another time AFR pulled two bodies from the washout.

An older man and young boy watched from the bridge as deputies, police and fire crews stood beside a wrapped body along the banks of the washout Wednesday afternoon.

After a few minutes, they loaded the body on to a stretcher in the back of an SUV belonging to the Office of the Medical Investigator.

Ruiz said he has been with AFR for 17 years and the water levels in the arroyo on Tuesday were some of the highest he’d ever seen — reaching 6 feet and moving at 25 feet per second. The National Weather Service said the foothills got more than an inch of rain in under 15 minutes.

“I think that goes to show how quickly those flash floods can happen,” Ruiz said.

“It’s imperative — that we ask people to stay out of the arroyo systems for that particular reason. That water comes in extremely fast and it’s near impossible to get out if you’re in the way of that water.”

Fire crews initially responded Tuesday afternoon after several 911 callers reported three people floating — one of them face down — in the North Diversion Channel in Northeast Albuquerque.

Swift water rescue units scrambled to the sides of the channel to attempt a rescue but didn’t spot the three people over a two-hour period. Afterward, the rescue effort turned into a recovery as open space units combed the washout for bodies late into Tuesday evening and then again on Wednesday.

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