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.

Comments

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8gNGfDWfBM

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.

So glad your husband is doing well. I spoke with the other two and they seem to be recovering and getting it together. I would have been with them if not for a family commitment. It must have been terrifying but at thankfully they all made it through. Please pass onto Joe my best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Joe, I used to climb with Jason in CT... Cathy called me yesterday and left a message but I have not been able to get in touch with Jason yet. If you talk to him, let him know I will get in touch. If anyone could pull off getting through a flash flood like that it would be Jason!

Hi Joey,
We are the Jersey Shore wish you much love and hope for a 100% recovery
Aunt Jacqueline, cousins Virginia, Patricia, Jerry, and Jacquie.

I am the third canyoneer that went over both water falls and had minor injuries. I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and prayers for Jason and Joe's speedy recovery. I visited Jason yesterday in the hospital and he was in good spirits and happy to be alive. I spoke to Joe the day before and he seems to be managing OK as well, albeit in a lot of pain. I know I can speak for the three of us when I say that we were very lucky and feel extremely blessed to have survived, much less with injuries that will not be life altering.

I want to extend a special thank you to Ian and Shane Morales and Eve Gasarch (the group ahead of us that helped Joe to shore). Without their help I do not know if Joe would have survived and I do not know how long it would have taken the rangers to find us. I want to set the record straight that it was one of them that used a headlamp to signal for help. Their heads up thinking, outdoor/first aid knowledge, and calmness under pressure was critical to the rescue. Shane lead me down the canyon by himself in the dark with one head lamp between us until Rangers were able to meet up with us about half way down. Ian and Eve stayed back to help the group of 6 that were behind us make it out in the dark.

I want to personally thank Rangers Ryan McDonald-O'Lear and Dan Hovanec for helping me the rest of the way down the canyon and for supplying first aid on the ambulance ride into St. George. Their professionalism and patience are to be commended.

Dave, the three of you are blessed in a way most of us will never understand! Good to hear that you are doing well and I heard from Jason today that he was sent home! I don't know Joe but it sounds like he got the worst of it? How is he doing?

Dave-

I am glad you are ok, after your ordeal. Do you have any idea of when I will get my shoes back?

Your bro.

David, I was horrrified to hear of your ordeal, but am so glad you're ok! We did not tell Nonnie. My prayers are with your friends to make speedy and complete recoveries. I'm so proud of you for your fitness, your training, and cool head in an emergencies. Love ya, too!

David, I am so glad to hear that you and the others are ok. What a beautiful way you spoke of all the others, you have always been so gracious. I have you and your friends, as well as everyone who helped you, in my thoughts.
Love you and miss you.

I'm glad you are safe and sound. My thoughts are with your friends who seem to have had it a little bit rougher time. Thanks to everyone who helped.

Dave- Your family in the DC area are extremely glad that you are ok. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to you and your friends- Jason and Joe. Thank you to all who assisted in this amazing rescue!! We are so glad your guardian angels were on duty that day!!

Thank you all again for your thoughts and prayers! I visited Jason and Joe over the weekend. Jason was walking with a walker and in very good spirits. Joe just got home yesterday from the hospital and was also walking when I saw him. It looks like we are all going to fully recover in time. What a miracle! Also, while I was at Joe's we got a call from a gentleman that found my backpack that was lost in the flood and he is going to mail it to us!

Wow, glad to hear all survived. I've been down spy twice. The first time it started to rain at the last narrow drop. Buy the time we got down to the canyon floor it was coming down pretty good. I believe the weather report for that day was also 30% chance.

Scary stuff. I couldn't get out of that narrow fast enough. I believe we have some picks of the rain and dark clouds somewhere.

Again, glad to hear no one got killed! Not many could have survived that.

As Joe's mother.....I want to THANK THANK THANK the group who pulled him out of danger and also the rangers and the medical unit that transported him to the hospital so quickly. We thank God every day that Joe and his 2 friends are alive and healing. It was a terrifying reminder that we should not take life for granted. Big hugs to all of you that helped!

Hey Dave, Thanks for helping my brother Jason to shore after he shattered his hip. I am sure that doing so was not without risk to you. You're a good dude,

Hi, just watching your story on the show, 'I Survived...' and I just wanted to thank the 3 of you for sharing your story and bringing awareness to such situations. I'm glad that everyone survived and it's quite the story for years to come. I'm sure it will save lives in the future.