Acis Raiden Garcia of Peyton, Arizona is 8-years-old. He survived a devastating flash flood on July 15, 2017, and is still trying to understand and come to terms with everything that happened.
You can watch some incredible footage as the flood approaches a group of environmentalists who were filming it here.
It begins as an immense wave of black approaching from a distance—which grew to be 6-foot tall, 40-foot wide, and moved at 45 mph, according to officials.
Nine of Raiden’s family members were killed in the flood in Payson, Arizona. They had been out on a family outing to celebrate a birthday when tragedy struck.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office said the boy’s father, 29-year-old Julio Garcia, his wife, 28-year-old Esthela Atondo, and Marina Garcia, their 1-year-old daughter, were the only other people who survived. Hector Miguel Garnica, Raiden’s uncle, has not yet been found.
Raiden survived the deadly flood when an unknown man came to his rescue. At this hour on July 18, 2017, that man has not been identified.
He saved Raiden’s life and he and his family would like to know who he is so they can thank him.
“We just told Raiden about what happened to the others,” the boy’s mother, Tasha Baker, told The Arizona Republic Tuesday night. “He took it really hard. He just wanted to be left alone.”
Raiden is having a difficult time fully comprehending what just happened days ago, as are his parents.
Baker and her boyfriend have made attempts to speak to Raiden about the tragic incident, and in doing so are listening closely to how he describes what happened to him. He seems to remember the name “Kelly” for some reason, and that is the one thing he is more than happy to talk about, but other details are coming slowly from this traumatized child.
The family was there to celebrate the birthday of Raiden’s aunt, but they could never have dreamed that this would happen. They were just having some innocent fun splashing in the water and enjoying the company of their family.
Raiden’s family have no idea what happened when Raiden was swept away by the powerful muck and mud as it tore a path down the mountain, nor where he would end up.
Raiden’s dad was somehow able to hold tight to his toddler daughter, and it took everything he had to keep them from being separated as he hung on to a tree branch.
“It was just luck,” Baker said of their survival. “But Raiden was even luckier because he had Kelly.”
Raiden explained to his mom, “The water just hit, and I held my breath.”
Raiden swam as hard as he possibly could, but Mother Nature was merciless and no match for the strength of a little boy. Because the water was carrying pieces of earth, dirt, trees, and soot along with it, the water was a liquid cloud of darkness and he said he couldn’t see anything. The water swept him away and he descended down the mountain rapidly until he was finally able to take hold of a log.
He tried yelling for help over the rushing sound and through the never-ending dark flow of debris. It appeared as if Raiden’s fate was doomed.
But that’s when a man from the shore heard his call for help and began to make his way through the obstacles of rock, logs, and rushing water.
At the same time, Raiden was trying to pull himself up so he could reach a nearby boulder. But he slipped.
“He fell back into the water and was struggling. He was all alone,” his mother explained as it was told to her by her son.
“But then Kelly appeared,” Raiden told his mom.
Kelly helped pull Raiden from the creek and on to shore.
“He was there for him. He was there for my son,” Baker said.
Kelly even managed to distract Raiden’s attention until more help arrived. Raiden was safe, but could not yet be completely moved.
“‘Me and Kelly spoke ‘Arnish’ while we waited,'” Baker remembered her son describing what had happened. “Arnish,” was a language Raiden and Kelly had invented,” Baker said her son told her, “where they talked like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
This person named “Kelly” is nowhere to be found. Not yet, at least.
Now, Baker and her son have taken to social media to mount a search.
“I want to thank him in person for helping my son the way he did,” Baker said. “Raiden wants to thank him, too.”
The boy described “Kelly” as a Caucasian man, middle-aged, with tan skin, salt-and-pepper hair, and a white beard.
The area—about 85 miles north of Phoenix—is no stranger to floods.
Water flows peacefully through that narrow part of the canyon most of the time. But when a deluge of rainfall occurs, all the water rushes to that area. And it just happened that there was a severe thunderstorm eight miles upstream from Ellison Creek.
Local officials said this can occur annually during the rainy season.
“They had no warning,” Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief Ron Sattelmaier said of the flash flood. “They heard a roar and it was on top of them.”
Then the 40-foot wide wave came, taking boulders, soot, trees, and ash down the canyon.
Excavation and investigation are still taking place. As of Tuesday, officials say they wish it was still a rescue mission, but they are now considering it a recovery mission.