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.