Searching for Hector Garnica: Family hoping man swept in Payson floods will be found

Posted at 7:15 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 14:48:41-04

Family and friends of Hector Garnica are not losing hope that he will be found.  

A trip to celebrate Hector's wife Maria's birthday turned deadly when he, his wife, and their three young kids, Danny, 7, Mia, 5, and Emily, 3, were carried away in a flash flood in Payson

Five others were killed and four were rescued. 

Search-and-rescue teams have been looking for Garnica though operations were suspended on Monday evening. On Tuesday morning, officials said they have a team of 75 searching for him. The team includes ground and air crews. 

Garnica's cousin, Iris, said the family is numb and wishes this was all a dream. 

"It's something that we wish was a dream, a dream we could wake up from," she said. "To know that they are OK and they are alive, but we know it's not."  

Iris said most of the family has stayed in Payson. His parents have vowed not to leave until he is found. 

Hector had three sisters. He was the oldest sibling in the family. 

Iris said Hector's father, understandably, is having a tough time knowing his only son may be gone.

Iris said the family was well known in the Cave Creek area.

Hector and Maria were high school sweethearts. 

Tim Price, a coworker at The Horny Toad in Cave Creek, said he watched the two of them grow up.

Price said he met Hector when Hector was 12. He later hired him at the restaurant. Since then, Hector worked at various restaurants. Most recently, he worked at El Encantero with his wife.

"For me, it's been hard. I cannot imagine how hard it is for his family. Especially up there looking for him," said Price. 

Price's restaurant was closed on Monday in remembrance of the victims. Flowers and melted candles sat outside the front entrance with a sign acknowledging the tragedy.

"We are closing today with great sadness in our hearts," the sign read.

Price said he spent a lot of time with Hector and his family.  He was a very fun, loving, caring, and hardworking person.

Iris said Hector was a great dad, genuine and always had a smile on his face.

She said Maria was quiet, extremely caring and hardworking.

The children, she said, were very sweet. The girls were little troublemakers and Hector's son Danny was just like his father. 

"Danny was just like his dad. Always happy, always with a smile," said Iris. 

The family said they are trying to stay strong and supporting one another. She said the family has come to terms with the likelihood that Hector will not be found alive, it is important to find him and reunite him with his family. 

"He has to be found, they can't stop looking until he is found," said Carla Garnica, who pleaded through tears for anyone to help and continue searching for her brother. 

The family also wanted to thank the community for their generosity and that the support has helped them know the impact and influence Hector had on the community.