Deputies: Air Force NCO died trying to rescue lifeguard
Angela Knoche and Timothy Hahn, swept to their deaths Saturday at Seven Falls in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, worked in jobs aimed at saving the lives of others.
Hahn had tried to save Knoche from the raging waters, reaching out to grab her hand, but he ended up carried away with her, Knoche’s brother, Jeffrey, said deputies told him.
“He jumped in after her to save her. She was on a rock, he reached out to grab her, and something hit them,” Jeffrey Knoche said he was told.
No one could save them when they were hit by a rain-fueled wall of water that roared down Bear Canyon.
Knoche worked as a lifeguard, and Hahn was an Air Force staff sergeant assigned to the 563rd Maintenance Squadron, part of the 563rd Rescue Group, a combat rescue unit, said Staff Sgt. Jacob Richmond, a public affairs specialist at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Jeffrey Knoche, 24, who lives in Scottsdale, heard Saturday night in a call from his mother, Kim, 48, that his sister was missing in the rain-swollen creek. He said he immediately feared the worst.
After driving to Tucson he went to a Pima County Sheriff’s Department rescue command post near the scene of the search for his sister and Hahn.
He was there when his sister’s body was found about 9 a.m. Sunday and then drove to his parents’ home and told his mother her only daughter was dead.
Jeffrey Knoche said his father, Mark Knoche, 48, stayed at the scene until Angela was pulled from the water.
Angela Knoche, 19, was a member of the Palo Verde High Magnet School swimming team before graduating from the school last year.
She worked as a civilian lifeguard at D-M, assigned to the 355th Services Squadron, Richmond said.
The squadron provides such things as gymnasium, swimming pool and outdoor recreation to people assigned to D-M and their families, Richmond said.
“This summer was her fourth summer” working as a lifeguard at the base, Richmond said.
Knoche’s mother works at the base in the Child Development Center, a day-care facility, Richmond said.
Friends of Knoche who posted comments on her MySpace page talked about a young women with a luminous smile and a jovial personality.
“She’s energetic and always very positive about things,” Jeffrey Knoche said during an interview at his parents’ Rita Ranch home.
She swam on the team for the four years she went to Palo Verde, Jeffrey Knoche said.
And “she loved music,” he said, adding that she taught herself to play guitar, then worked hard and saved to buy a mandolin, which she also taught herself to play.
“She was going to major in sports medicine, but changed to public relations,” Jeffrey said of his sister’s plans. She was going into her sophomore year at Pima Community College and intended to go on to the University of Arizona or Northern Arizona University.
Hahn enlisted in the Air Force in October 2001 and was stationed at D-M in April 2004. His hometown was not available.
Hahn was married and had a 4-year-old daughter, Richmond said.
His body was found Saturday but could not be recovered until 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Deputy Dawn Hanke said.
Hahn, Knoche and three other people had gone to the Seven Falls area Saturday on an outing, said Heidi Schewel, a Coronado National Forest spokeswoman.
Schewel said 26 other people along the Seven Falls trail had to be rescued when they were trapped by rushing water.
Authorities long have warned that people need to be extra cautious in canyons and washes during the monsoon in southern Arizona. Flash floods are common, and others have died when they have been swept away by floodwaters.
At Tanque Verde Falls, more than 30 people were swept to their deaths by floodwaters from 1970 to April 2004, according to Tucson Citizen archives. The worst incident was in 1981, when eight people were swept over the falls to their deaths.
But “these people, it doesn’t look like they did anything wrong,” Hanke, a sheriff’s spokeswoman, said of Knoche and Hahn.
“It’s unfortunate. People need to be more aware of what’s going on when it’s raining,” Hanke said, adding that “during monsoon season, when it’s raining, people need to be extra cautious of washes.”
On Monday the U.S. Forest Service closed the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area at the visitors parking lot after a 4-foot rise in water was recorded in the canyon’s upper reaches. A forecast of more rain contributed to the closure, the Forest Service said in a statement.
The Sabino Canyon visitors center remained open, and the Forest Service was to reassess the canyon’s status Tuesday.