HILDALE, Utah (AP) — Members of a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border gathered for a memorial service marking the anniversary of flash floods that killed at least a dozen people.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Short Creek on Wednesday night cursed the flood but praised relief efforts and first responders. About 150 people stood about a mile downstream from where the Hildale victims were swept away.
“While we mourn the tragedy of those who lost their lives, we celebrate the synergy that was born from that event,” said Harvey Dockstader, Jr., one of the memorial’s organizers.
One year ago, three women and 13 children were returning from a park when they stopped at a flooded crossing on a gravel road north of the towns to watch the gushing waters. They were inside a van and an SUV when a wall of water surged out of a canyon above, swept the vehicles downstream and plunged into a flooded-out embankment.
The bodies of 12 people were found amid mud and debris miles away. Three boys survived. The body of one boy, 6-year-old Tyson Black, was never found and he was presumed dead.
“No one cared what you believed in,” said Terrill Musser, one of the memorial organizers and a former member of the FLDS. “We all had a common goal: Let’s bring Tyson home.”
The same storm killed seven hikers in Zion National Park and a man from Hurricane, Utah.
The memorial was mostly attended by non-practicing FLDS members. No one from the families of the deceased spoke.
In an interview before the memorial, Shirlee Draper, a member of a local housing board, said the floods forced the FLDS members to interact with others and softened them. Draper said she believes interactions with non-FLDS members after the floods may have influenced some of the people who left the church in the past year.
“Somewhere in the back of their minds, [FLDS members] know they can come out and be OK,” Draper said.