Rescuers with the Utah Department of Public Safety made a daring rescue after 19 hikers with a youth group got stuck in a slot canyon near Capitol Reef National Park.
Officials said that the group of 17 kids and two adults were hiking through Sandthrax Canyon on Thursday (June 9) when they became trapped.
Sandthrax Canyon is extremely dangerous and has been the site of several accidents. A warning on the popular canyoneering website roadtripryan.com advises potential hikers that “it requires climbing competency and ability that most canyoneers do not possess.”
“When I get these phone calls, and they say, ‘Youth group, 15 kids,’ you kind of get a heaviness in your chest, and you just say a little prayer and throw everything you’ve got at it,” Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins told KSTU.
While rescuers managed to locate the group that night, it was too dark to send out helicopters to pull them out of the canyon. The rescuers lowered food and water to the stranded hikers while they waited until the morning.
“They were lucky they were in an area where that hoist was able to be used,” Perkins told KSL.
A 27-minute video released by the UDPS showed the daring rescue as deputies discussed the safest way to hoist the stranded hikers out of the narrow canyon. The entire recovery effort took several hours, but by noon on Friday, all 19 people had been brought to safety.
“Everyone has been rescued and taken to safety everyone is OK,” Perkins tweeted. “I can’t thank our DPS helicopter crew enough along with Wayne County deputies Garfield County Deputy’s and Search And Rescue.”
Perkins urged anybody who wants to hike through the Utah desert should be fully prepared before they set out.
“Make sure you have the right equipment, not only to get you through what you’re doing, but the safety equipment, make sure people know where you are,” he said.