Search and rescue dispatched to find hiker at feet in snow and freezing temperatures near Kolob Arch in Sion – St George News

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Search and rescue officers had to walk the last mile to reach a woman stuck in the snow in the Kolob Canyons area of ​​Zion National Park, Washington County, Utah January 10, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – After receiving a call at 6 a.m. to rescue a backpacker stranded in the snow, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office sent search and rescue volunteers on snowmobiles and snowmobiles to reach the woman before the cold. does irreversible damage.

Pin shows where hiker and rescuers started from and circle shows final location before helicopter rescue | Image courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

Sgt. Darrell Cashin, of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Service, said his crews were sent to a remote part of Zion National Park to assist a 26-year-old woman visiting the area from New York City.

After starting a multi-day hike on Sunday and camping overnight, she broke camp in the early hours of Monday morning and continued on her way until a numbing cold practically immobilized her legs, Cashin said. .

“She got to the top of Hop Valley through the Kolob Fingers Arch, and there’s 2-3 feet of snow in there,” he said. “I think the deputies said it was about 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) up there, so it was very cold. She goes through the snow and she gets stuck – physically stuck. She can’t move. She can’t get out. But she has a SPOT device that she can text with, so she texted, “I need help.”

The SPOT device, a satellite messenger, also shared its geolocation data with emergency personnel. Even on snowmobiles suitable for winter terrain, rescuers were only able to get to about six miles from the trailhead before they had to continue on foot for just over a mile before finding the woman.

Utah Highway Patrol / Department of Public Safety helicopter dispatched from Salt Lake City to assist with rescue at Kolob Canyons, Washington County, Utah on January 10, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News

“It took me about an hour and 40 minutes for my search and rescue operations to reach it,” Cashin said. “During this, she texted us saying, ‘My legs are numb. I can’t feel my feet. I lose consciousness. At one point, she texted, “I eat snow to stay hydrated.” But in situations where you have hypothermia, eating snow lowers your core temperature even more. That’s when we got really worried.

By the time search and rescue volunteers found her, her boots were frozen and she was having trouble thinking correctly. First responders made sure she got rid of her wet clothes and put her in warm, dry clothes and a sleeping bag, Cashin said.

Command of the incident was established in the parking lot of the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, where Cashin contacted the Utah Department of Public Safety / Utah Highway Patrol to find out if their rescue helicopter would be in. able to help. Fortunately, the helicopter was available and flew from Salt Lake City to take the woman out about an hour after she was located.

“They flew her back to us and we had an ambulance waiting for her that took her to Cedar (City) hospital,” Cashin said. “She was conscious and talking, but it was obvious that she had difficulty walking even to get out of the helicopter and get on the stretcher. She was lucky – everything lined up and if she hadn’t been able to use a SPOT she might never have made it out.

The woman’s camping gear was recovered by the search and rescue team and delivered to the hospital. Although the identity of the hiker was not disclosed, Cashin said he was in contact with Zion National Park as they were helping coordinate the rescue and they confirmed that she had received a permit for her trip. hiking.

The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service also provided personnel who assisted the sheriff’s office in the rescue efforts. This report is based on statements from police, emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain all of the findings.

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Brandon D. James