On July 26, 1981, a wall of water witnesses said was 5 to 10 feet high swept through the steep canyons that flank Tanque Verde Creek east of Tucson and over numerous falls that were popular with Summer crowds. It swept into dozens of people at the falls that day, including a Department of Public Safety rescue helicopter crew treating a fall victim from earlier in the day (who died at the hospital). Eight people died in the flash flood. Hydrologists later estimated the water was moving at 25 mph. The fall victim may have indirectly saved many others, several who were helping DPS paramedic Denny Welsh carry the victim to the helicopter waiting on higher ground when the flood hit. DPS pilot Loren Leonberger radioed Chuck McHugh, the Pima County Sheriff's search and rescue coordinator, working downstream to warn him. McHugh warned about a dozen people.
It took nearly a week to locate all eight bodies. The picture by Tucson Citizen photographer Peter Weinberger, taken on July 27, 1981, shows a rescue crew taking a recovered body to the DPS helicopter.