The body of a 4-year-old Central girl who was swept away during a fierce monsoon storm Thursday night was found Monday morning thanks to the efforts of dozens of law enforcement officers from all over eastern Arizona and hundreds of volunteers who have spent hours in the rain scouring Cottonwood Wash and miles of the Gila River.
Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies said volunteers found Maci Reed’s body in the Bryce/Eden area on the north side of the river sometime before 8 a.m. Monday.
Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis said she was found near the Eden diversion dam 1.5 miles from where she was lost and a half mile from the Eden bridge.
“We’re glad to have a resolution,” McCormies said.
According Cauthen, a family of six was driving on a farm road on private property Thursday night when their suburban was swept away. Apparently they drove through a dip in the road while traveling one way without any issues, but when they came back to the dip, their vehicle stalled in water. A woman in the vehicle called 911 shortly after 9 p.m., and officers made a chain with a rope to get the family off the roof of the suburban, but it quickly began to drift away.
Maci went into Cottonwood Wash at some point. When the Suburban was later found it had “traveled a really good distance from where the officers originally went in,” Cauthen said.
According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Meyer, Mt. Graham received more than 5 inches of rain and areas of Greenlee County, which also feeds into the Gila River, received around 3 inches of rain between Thursday night and Monday morning. The vast majority of that rain fell Thursday night and Friday, he said.
Just as the community came forward to support the families of Mason Gann, Kade Nelson and Emmett Darnell after they died in a car wreck in February 2020, the community has rushed to help Maci’s family.
The Search for 4yr-old Maci Facebook page had nearly 13,000 members as of Monday morning. On that page, organizers have asked for supplies for searchers and they’ve been immediately filled, whether it was refreshments, Chapstick, saw blades to clear brush, kayaks, wet suits or fuel for side-by-sides. A teacher was even collecting cards and drawings for Maci’s older sister.
Roughly three dozen people gathered Friday night to pray at Thatcher Park for the child.
Pima Police Chief Diane Cauthen said she is immensely grateful for the assistance of so many other agencies from across the state and hundreds of volunteers.
“Without the support that we had, she wouldn’t have been found as fast,” Cauthen said. “We had so many agencies, we had so many citizens, that’s why we were able to recover Maci so fast. We couldn’t have done it without our citizens and we just live in a great community.”
Tommy Snodderley, vice president, of Graham County Search and Rescue, said he, too, wanted to give a “big thanks” to the many, many civilian volunteers who came out along with first responders and search and rescue teams from inside and outside the Gila Valley. Firefighters from Morenci and Clifton assisted, along with deputies from Greenlee and Cochise counties, U.S. Border patrol agents, people from FMI and Aquatronics.
A team from the town of El Mirage in Maricopa County came, as did a police officer from Phoenix.
“The best thing is the caliber of people here, hundreds and hundreds of people showed up. Everybody showed the love. The community has really bonded, and every person I talked to, knew about it,” said Brent Weekes, a local volunteer who had been looking for Maci since the search began.
Amy Allred, who organized the initial civilian volunteer search groups, said she learned Maci was found while she was at the Pima Town Hall getting ready to set out to begin the day’s search. Through tears, she described her gratitude for the fact Maci had been found and that the community came to help.
“We’re so so grateful, we feel sad for the grieving family. But we feel blessed we were able to find her,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the community that pulled together, the volunteers. Everybody did their part, whatever part that was, if they couldn’t come out they were making food. They were praying, we had local businesses that offered and donated things, we had so much support from the community.”
Sean Lewis, Pima town manager attributed Maci’s recovery to the hard work of community members and coordination between agencies.
“It’s because of this, it’s because of our community. If we didn’t have so many volunteers and so many agencies,” he said. “She was found strictly because of the community we live in and the agencies, coordinating and working well together.”
Search organizers noted that everyone who participated in the search came out despite the miserable weather and the potential danger to themselves. In fact, people out looking for Maci in a pontoon boat had to be rescued Monday morning near the Pima Diversion Dam.