Two Arizona parents were devastated when their truck got stuck during a flood, washing away their niece and two children. However, their grief came to a head when they were suddenly charged with the deaths of their young loved ones.
After a particularly heavy rain, a family piled in their military-style truck and proceeded to cross an area of Tonto Creek. Despite the barricade blocking off the crossing zone due to flooding, Daniel Rawlings felt confident that his heavy-duty vehicle could maneuver the rushing water. He was wrong.
The truck became lodged in the mud as rising water swirled around the family, which included Daniel’s wife, Lacey Rawlings, their four children, and their three nieces, the Daily Mail reports. One adult managed to swim to the shore while another was left stranded with four of the children in the truck on an island in the middle of the rushing creek. Tragically, three of the children had already been swept downstream.
Arizona authorities confirmed that the bodies of the couple’s 5-year-old son Colby and 5-year-old niece Austin were recovered from the creek after a desperate search and rescue. The body of their 5-year-old daughter Willa was found nearly two weeks later. However, before the families finished grieving their tragic loss, investigators came forward with even more devastating news.
According to KTAR, 36-year-old Daniel and 32-year-old Lacey were charged in the deaths of their two children and niece. Daniel faces three counts of reckless manslaughter and seven counts of child abuse. Lacey was also charged with seven counts of child abuse for her involvement in the incident.
In an interview with 3TV/CBS 5, the parents lamented their decision to cross the flooded creek but admitted that such an action was commonplace.
“I will say one thing. People go around the barricades all the time,” Daniel said. “I’m not justifying my actions one bit, but there could be more done.”
Of course, this comment led many to criticize the couple for allegedly attempting to defer blame. Although the pair has remained apologetic, they expressed disdain for those judging their decision to ignore the warnings in order to cross the basin.
“We don’t have anything to say to them,” Daniel said. “Everybody’s a critic, and they’re keyboard warriors. Those people may not have ever gone through something tragic in their life.”
“I hope they don’t have to go through something like this and learn what it really feels like,” Lacey added.
Phoenix meteorologist Sean Benedict came forward to explain just how dangerous the creek was, despite its seemingly harmless appearance. He estimated that a total of 6 inches of rainfall the week before the tragedy could’ve easily led the basin to become a slippery trap for anyone attempting to cross.
“So the grounds were already pretty wet and that probably helped with the runoff,” Benedict added.
Before the charges were brought against the pair, a GoFundMe page was established in their name to provide financial relief for the family. A second account was set up for the family of Austin, who passed away along with her young cousins.
Many are torn on whether the authorities should have brought charges against the couple. Some believe that the loss of their children was punishment enough while others maintain that they should pay for their negligence.
Sadly, just one seemingly harmless bad decision that so many have and continue to make has led to the deaths of three innocent children. Hopefully, this tragic story will serve as a warning to others who would ignore the barricades that are erected for their safety.