UPDATED: Search crews recover 4th body; 3 still missing after flash flood, Zion National Park

UPDATED 8 p.m. 

ZION NATIONAL PARK — Bodies of four hikers have been recovered and three hikers remain missing in Zion National Park after having apparently been caught in flash flooding through a small slot canyon Monday afternoon.

The group included seven adults, ages 40s and 50s, from California and Nevada, Lead Park Ranger Jin Prugsawan said.

They were hiking and canyoneering in Keyhole Canyon when .63 inches of rain fell in one hour between 4:30-5:30 p.m. Monday, the park’s press release said, resulting in flash flooding through the canyon.

“It’s just a small canyon on the east side of the park right off the main road,” park Education Specialist David Eaker said, “one that’s usually done in a few hours time; it is technical – ropes involved … so you’d have to hike to it and then use ropes to rappel down.”

The park’s release described the rappels as under 30 feet, noting that swimming several pools of water is also required to get through the canyon. A permit from the park is required to canyoneer Keyhole Canyon.

Park rangers were told of the group in Keyhole Canyon shortly before the flooding began, the park’s release said. Their unoccupied vehicles were located Monday evening and a search began Tuesday morning when it was determined they had not exited the canyon.

The first body was recovered at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, washed down the canyon, Prugsawan said. The second was visible in the canyon and was recovered at 2:30 p.m., and the third was recovered around 4:15 p.m., she said, but did not have information on where it was found.

A fourth body was recovered later in the day, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services Alyssa Baltrus told St. George News around 7:15 p.m. It was recovered downstream of Keyhole Canyon.

So, so far we’ve located one female and three males,” Baltrus said.

High water levels and continued rain showers pose further flash flooding concerns and have hampered searchers’ access to technical portions of the canyoneering route.

“The weather is the biggest factor, Prugsawan said. “Our search and rescue has not entered the canyon because of the rain, they are continuing to search areas around the canyon.”

At 7:15 p.m. Baltrus said the search operations were stopped for the night.

Park search crews with assistance from Rockville Fire Department performed a preliminary search of the tributaries below the canyon Tuesday, Baltrus said. Wednesday, they plan to make a more precise search of every little nook and cranny, including Keyhole Canyon and Pine Creek downstream.

Grand Canyon National Park Search and Rescue, Kane County and Washington County search teams have been asked to help continue the search Wednesday, park officials said.

The park is not releasing names of the victims or the missing hikers at this time pending notification of family.

Gov. Gary Herbert issued the following statement:

I join with other Utahns in mourning today the lives lost in two tragic incidents at Zion National Park and Hildale. Jeanette and I send our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones.

I thank the first responders, volunteers and other officials involved in the recovery effort. I remind residents and those in neighboring communities to keep the affected areas clear of unnecessary traffic to allow local responders to perform their duties.

Today’s tragedy also serves as a reminder to residents and those visiting our state to take appropriate precautions and be aware of the factors that contribute to dangerous flash floods. This includes strong thunderstorms and intense rainfall that can take place over several hours or even just a few minutes.” 

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5 Comments

  • fun bag September 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    wow, thats crazy even more deaths

    • Dexter September 16, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Storms like this cause a lot of damage. it’s just sad that it took human lives.

  • hb bev September 16, 2015 at 9:40 am

    One very tragic day. Prayers for all involved.

  • Bubbasheepherder September 16, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    I am amazed you didn’t have a jerk comment Fun Bag.

    • Dexter September 16, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      The only jerk comment here is yours.

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