Family speaks after 3 mothers and their children swept away by flash flood in Hildale

Posted at 9:22 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 17:17:01-04

SOUTHERN UTAH – The communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah are still coming to terms with a tragedy that nearly killed entire families.

Three mothers and nine children from two families are among the dead after a flash flood tore through Hildale, and another missing child is presumed to be dead.

“They were vibrant personalities,” Rose Merrilyn Barlow said. “They were fantastic with their children. They were pay-attention-to-detail kind of people."

Monday, a flash flood swept two vehicles carrying 16 members of Rose Merrilyn Barlow's extended family down a raging creek.

Rose's brother, Joseph, is the husband of Josephine Jessop and Naomi Jessop. He is also the father of their children. The other victim, Della Black, is married to Sheldon Black Jr. Click here for interviews with the husbands and fathers of the victims. 

“These were beautiful people,” Rose’s husband, Peter, said of the Jessop family. “Very beautiful people. Not only on the outside, but the inside.”

Peter Barlow said there is a small consolation in the fact the family is together.

“I don't think that those dear sweet mothers would want to be separated from those dear children,” he said. “This is the way, you know, if they had to go, they would rather go with their children.”

Rose and her husband Peter hadn't been in close contact with them for the last few years, the result of religious differences that have divided many families in Hildale and Colorado City, both of which are predominantly occupied by members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

“The alienation has been so intense,” Rose Barlow said. “It’s almost like we don't know our very own families any more.”

But Barlow said there is a slight silver lining to the tragedy.

“I feel like it has brought the community together, and the different factions have worked together for this common cause,” Rose Barlow said.

Rose and Peter Barlow were among the few people in this community willing to talk to FOX 13 News on camera, but others who spoke off-camera said they also believe the community is coming together.

A donation account benefiting the families of those killed in the flooding has been set up, and donors can contribute by visiting any Mountain America branch. See the tweet below for details.