The body of an unidentified man was pulled from Potrero Creek north of Nogales city limits on Wednesday evening following a brief downpour in the local area.
A passerby in the Chula Vista area spotted the body as it was being carried north by floodwaters in the Nogales Wash and alerted the nearby Nogales Suburban Fire District, which in turn notified the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 5 p.m., said Sheriff’s Sgt. Santiago Gonzales.
At that point, he said, sheriff’s deputies, along with personnel from the Nogales Suburban and Rio Rico fire districts, positioned themselves at locations north of the initial sighting.
The Nogales Wash joins with the north-flowing Potrero Creek a few hundred yards north of Chula Vista, and responders stationed on Old Tucson Road at the bridge over the creek near the U.S. Forest Service station made the recovery.
“That’s where the body became stuck underneath the bridge,” Gonzales said. “And that’s where we were able to recover the body of an adult male.”
There was no ID found on the body. Gonzales estimated the victim’s age at 35 to 45 and said he was wearing a shell necklace and had multiple tattoos.
Reporter Cesar Barron of Radio XENY in Nogales, Sonora reported that the man’s tattoos included a depiction of a woman on his right arm, skulls and spiderwebs on his left arm, and more skulls on his right foot. Gonzales said that description “seems pretty accurate.”
The Nogales Wash is fed by drainage tunnels from Nogales, Sonora as well as local runoff, and since the victim may have been washed over the border from Mexico, the Sheriff’s Office contacted the Mexican Consulate for help in potentially providing an ID.
Gonzales said authorities did not observe any signs of foul play, though the body showed signs of trauma from being carried along the wash. An autopsy from the Office of the Medical Examiner is pending.
A summer storm blew through Ambos Nogales mid-afternoon Wednesday, briefly soaking the area with a heavy downpour. Rainfall totals were relatively low, with two-tenths of an inch of precipitation recorded at a county rain gauge near the border at Interstate 19 and Western Avenue. Even so, the Nogales Wash had “a good amount of water flowing into it,” Gonzales said.
“I know when we responded and were there by the fire station, it was flowing pretty good there,” he said, adding: “But upstream, it hadn’t gotten upstream yet.”
This was the first report of a body found in the Nogales Wash or the waterways it feeds in Santa Cruz County during the 2019 monsoon season.
On Sept. 18, 2018, a heavy downpour on both sides of Ambos Nogales produced powerful runoff that washed away three men in Mexico and carried their bodies into Arizona.