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Payson Update: Crews locate remains during search for missing man

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Posted at 7:07 PM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 08:11:12-04

Crews have located remains during their search for a 27-year-old man who went missing after deadly flash flooding near Payson that killed nine of his relatives.

Officials at a Wednesday evening press conference confirmed they had found remains "believed to be related to the search" for Hector Miguel Garnica.

The Department of Public Safety is doing DNA analysis on the remains.

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The search had been called off around 1 p.m. Wednesday after bad weather moved into the area, but officials had said before the search was suspended, several search and rescue dogs indicated they had hit on scents.

Relatives earlier Wednesday announced funeral services would be held early next week for their loved ones who died in the flood.

Jakki Moss, a manager with the local family-owned Messinger Mortuary, said visitation for the victims will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. A funeral Mass for the group is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the church, she said.

The victims were swept away Saturday in a thunderstorm-produced flash flood that roared through a popular swimming hole along the river in the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona.

Garnica's wife, Maria Raya-Garcia, their three small children, his mother-in-law, sister-in-law and other relatives were killed in the flood. The group had gathered to celebrate Maria Raya-Garcia's birthday.

In recent days, searches had included divers probing ponds of standing water along the river and forestry crews using saws to cut up tree limbs to allow other searchers to dig and check under rocks and deep piles of debris.

As the days-long search continued for Garnica, questions had arisen about whether the government should or could have done more to warn the public about the dangers of floodwaters in wilderness areas.

Officials have said members of the extended family who died in the flood had no warning about the approaching surge of water.

There is no system currently in place to specifically warn people about the potential dangers of flash floods at the Tonto National Forest.

Just four of the 14 members of the extended family gathered at the swimming hole were rescued after the flood.

One was Acis Raiden Garcia, Garnica's 8-year-old nephew from Flagstaff, who had told news media he wanted to find the man who swept him to safety. After his mother helped him track down Kelley Markel through a social media search on Wednesday, a meeting for the three was scheduled for next week.

The boy and his father, 29-year-old Julio Garcia, his father's wife, 28-year-old Esthela Atondo, and the couple's 1-year-old daughter, Marina Garcia, were the only ones to survive.