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Three Canyoneers Survive Flash Flood in Zion National Park


Armed with little more than a headlamp and determination, an injured canyoneer in Zion National Park managed to save himself and two buddies after the three were washed down canyon by a flash flood.

The Las Vegas men, whose names were not released, were canyoneering in the park's Spry Canyon on Saturday when a flash flood -- spawned by a thunderstorm that dropped an inch of rain in less than 30 minutes -- roared down on them. All three were washed over a 40-foot drop, the Park Service said, and two of the three then went over a 60-foot drop.

One of the three used his headlamp to signal a distress call, and as luck would have it an off-duty ranger hiking on the switchbacks west of the Zion Mt-Carmel Tunnel reported seeing the flashing light at the top of the last rappel in Spry Canyon, the agency said, explaining that Spry Canyon drains into Pine Creek and is visible from the switchbacks.

Two rangers sent to investigate found the three men. Their injuries were not reported by the Park Service.

A helicopter was used to short-haul the two most seriously injured men to air ambulances that then transported them to the Dixie Regional Medical Center in nearby St. George, Utah, park officials said. The third man was assisted out by foot and then transported by ground ambulance to Dixie Regional Medical Center. The rescue effort involved 20 park personnel and three helicopters.

The weather report for Saturday called for just a 30 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms but the U.S. Weather Service said there was a "moderate potential" for flash flooding, according to the Park Service.

"This incident emphasizes the importance heeding the weather and flash flood potential reports and seriously considering the advisability of entering narrow canyons when rain and flash flooding are a possibility," the Park Service added.


I was in a group of four that descended Lodge Canyon the same day. The three men from Las Vegas gave us a ride up to the start of our hike, which shares a trailhead with Spry canyon. We were at the last final repel of our canyon when Lodge flashed. I am very happy to hear that they survived and I wish them a speedy recovery.

My bro was one of the three. He's in surgery right now to repair a shattered hip. The doc will put a couple pins in. The doc says he will have full range of motion later. After some intensive rehab, he should make a full recovery. One guy had bruises and contusions. The third guy only fell 40 ft and didn't fall over the second 60 ft waterfall with the other two because someone threw him a rope. Its a good thing because he was the most seriously injured and its doubtful he would have survived the 2nd fall. As soon as he got pulled to the shore, he passed out. It was a bad situation. However, they made good decision like jumping 40 feet first into the alcove with a sandy bottom instead of waiting to be swept off 100 ft +. Yes they were lucky, but obviously they are "hard men." Most would have died.

I too was in the group of four on Lodge Canyon. Glad to hear that everyone will recover - we were all very worried and notified the rangers that your brother's 's group might be in trouble as soon as we were able to escape our canyon. Sounds like they had already spotted the one person's headlamp though. We figured our two canyons flashed in under four minutes. The fact that all three are still alive is a tribute to them and their survival skills. Please wish them our best.

I am also from Vegas and was part of the first party that descended Spry canyon on Saturday, probably no more than 30 minutes ahead of the group which sustained the injuries. We were roughly 50 feet from the last tree rappel over the lip in the main watercourse when the flash hit, but were lucky enough to make it behind a large boulder for protection. After worrying about these three guys for the duration of the flood, knowing they were up in the slot, I headed back up canyon with the park rangers and was extra relieved to see them (bottom two) conscious and talking albeit injured and shaken up! Glad to hear they all got out that night and are being treated!!

Kudos to the upper (last) canyon group who also managed to find shelter and stay out of the flood, not to mention assisting with the upper injured canyoneer and getting valuable info to the rangers. In such a scary situation it's just awesome to see everyone pulling together to help out.

The comments of this story are more interesting than the story itself! Glad to hear more details from those who were there and thankful that everyone made it out with their lives.

I have posted a video here from my helmet cam of when the flood hit. We had just decided to take cover behind a rock before attempting the last rappel over the final cliff. We had absolutely no idea that the flood was coming - didn't hear or see anything until it hit.

Glad everyone got out, and best wishes for speedy recoveries to the injured.

Thanks for all the positive wishes on this site. I am the wife of one of the men who was in the flood and I must say that the men who helped him out of the canyon very likely saved his life. Two wonderful young who had it together and got him up to higher ground. So far, my hubby who only went over the one waterfall is doing okay and we hope for the best. but all 3 are blessed and lucky to be alive after soooo much.

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