Flooding in Paulden. Car trapped in a wash at Feather Mountain Road. (Source: Mary Atonna)
Big Chino wash looking upstream from the SR 89 bridge in Paulden. (Source: Mary Atonna)
Floodwaters sweep tour bus into wash. (Source: Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire DIstrict)
The bus was on Pierce Ferry Road when it was swept away. (Source: Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire DIstrict)
Paulden area flooding. (Source: Mary Atonna)
PAULDEN, AZ (CBS5) -
A group of tourists on their way back from visiting Skywalk at the Grand Canyon had one heck of an adventure when the bus they were on got caught in a flash flood.
A spokesman for the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District said it happened just before 2 p.m. Sunday about 30 miles north of Kingman.
Fire Chief Patrick Moore said all 33 people on board made it to safety through the emergency exits.
He told CBS 5 News the bus was headed west on Pierce Ferry Road when it came to a low-lying area, at milepost 16, and was swept away by flood waters.
Rushing water carried the bus about 300 yards into a wash before it flipped onto its side.
The passengers and driver were able to climb out of the windows and make it to shore.
Moore said these people are very lucky.
By the time they escaped, the water had risen to 8 feet in some areas.
Moore said there was enough water on the road that the bus driver should not have tried to cross the wash.
But it's up to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office to decide whether or not to cite the driver under Arizona's Stupid Motorist Law.
Repeated calls and emails to MCSO were not returned Sunday. On Monday, MCSO spokeswoman Trish Carter said the "investigation continues and charges may be pending."
Pierce Ferry Road remains closed at milepost 16 where a portion of the road has been washed away.
The bus company, CH Destination, issued the following statement on Monday concerning the accident:
"On Sunday, July 28, 2013 at approximately 13:00 our full motor coach #1188 was T-boned by a flash flood that occurred on Pierce Ferry Road on Mohave County in Northwest Arizona. Our deluxe full motor coach was traveling south to head back to Las Vegas, NV from the Grand Canyon West Rim/Skywalk tourist destination.
"As our bus driver, Joseph Razon, approached the portion of the road that had debris (rocks and mud) and some water with the ground visible, he stopped to investigate the road more closely to confirm whether it was safe to pass or not. There was a sedan directly in front of our motor coach that passed through this section without issue and it was determined and agreed by the Tour Guide and passengers in the bus that it was safe for us to pass.
"As our driver was traveling at approximately 5 mph to keep the passengers and bus safe from debris damage, the flood of mud and water T-boned our bus without warning. From where the water was approaching from, there was a hill that had no visibility to see beyond for forewarning. It hit our motor coach with such force that it washed us down 300 yards from Pierce Ferry Road.
"Due to the experience of our driver and his professionalism, he was able to maneuver the motor coach to create a full stop and then tip the bus at an angle to allow the passengers to exit the bus safely to high dry ground.
"The bus driver, Joseph Razon, with the assistance of the Tour Guide, unlatched the roof emergency exit and then safely got the passengers out one by one. Once the last passenger had exited the motor coach, Joseph proceeded to remove personal effects for the passengers and then finally exited himself.
"He was able to keep very calm and in turn kept the passengers calm and relaxed without further incident. He contacted 911 immediately and then called our office to dispatch a rescue motor coach as well. This is a true testament to the type of drivers we employ as their immediate concern is always for the safety of the passengers, as well as the surrounding environment. Emergency dispatch did not arrive for over an hour and our rescue coach were not allowed access until 15:55 and our passengers were dropped off at their resort at 18:56.
"Unfortunately, we had not received any warning to the flash flood possibility for that particular location from anyone, nor were there any warning signs on the road to alert all drivers. Apparently the National Weather Service issued a bulletin for the flash flood warning on 11:47 a.m. MST on Sunday July 28, 2013 for Central Mohave County in Northwest Arizona to all the authorities in that County and area.
"There was not a single warning sign any where near that road to indicate that there would be a flash flood on that road. Vehicles of all kinds, including other motor coaches, were traveling to and from on Pierce Ferry Road all morning prior to the flood and never saw any warnings on or near that road. Pierce Ferry Road is the only road access to and from the Grand Canyon West Rim and Skywalk as there is no other road option for vehicles to travel to and from.
"This is the very first incident of this kind with Canyon Coach Lines since we were established in 2007 and will now have additional safety training in place for this type of incident to prevent future issues of this kind. We at CH Destination, dba Canyon Coach Lines are happy to report that no one was hurt and the only fatality is our motor coach. We are sending our sincerest apologies to our passengers for any and all inconveniences that this incident has caused."
The monsoon flared up across northern Arizona Sunday.
A CBS 5 News viewer in Paulden said rains along Interstate 40 the past two days have swollen the Big Chino Wash in Paulden.
A car got trapped Sunday morning in a wash at Feather Mountain Road.
The Arizona Department of Transportation closed an 18-mile stretch of I-40 Saturday night between Flagstaff and Kingman because of the flash flooding.
Grand Canyon National Park officials reported flash flooding on Garden Creek at Indian Gardens.
Looking ahead, some monsoon moisture may spread west into the central deserts later in the week leading to a slight chance for thunderstorms into the greater Phoenix area.
Near seasonal normal high temperatures can be expected through Monday, with a warming trend expected Tuesday into the latter portion of the work week.
Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates on this developing story.
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UPDATEFloodwaters sweep tour bus into wash north of KingmanMore>>
A group of tourists on their way back from visiting Skywalk at the Grand Canyon had one heck of an adventure when the bus they were on got caught in a flash flood. It's up to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office to decide whether or not to cite the driver under Arizona's Stupid Motorist Law.More >>
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