US grant to pay for bridge over Tonto Creek where 3 children died

Gila County will receive a $21 million federal grant to build a bridge over Tonto Creek where three young children died last November when a family’s truck was swept away in rural east-central Arizona, Sen. Martha McSally announced Sept. 10.

The Arizona Republican said the bridge to be funded by a U.S. Transportation Department grant “will provide safe passage over Tonto Creek during flooding, and provide critical access to school, health care, and work for residents who must currently take a 75-mile detour during floods.”

Siblings Willa Rawlings, 6, and Colby Rawlings, 5, and cousin Austin Rawlings, 5, died while trying to cross the creek about 75 miles northeast of Phoenix. Willa and Colby’s parents, Daniel and Lacey Rawlings, and four other children were rescued.

Colby, Austin and Willa Rawlings (Ashley Doubt & the Rawlings Family)

“No other family should have to experience this kind of unimaginable loss,” McSally said in a statement. “I appreciate the Transportation Department recognizing the lifesaving value of this bridge.”

McSally’s statement said a total of eight people have since 1995 while trying to cross the flooded creek.

Residents of the area have been pushing for a bridge over the river crossing for years.

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