Dramatic rescue of 19 hikers from Utah canyon: “This is what we train for”

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The dramatic video captured the success of rescuing 17 teens and two adults of a youth group from one of Utah’s many slot canyons – and Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said of the slot canyons: “These aren’t for beginners “.

The rescue took place at Sandthrax Canyon, located in Southeast Utah’s Red Rock region, on Friday morning.

One of the rescuers, the sergeant. Nick Napierski of the Utah Department of Public Safety told Fox News Digital in an interview that the group had been stranded for more than a day before help arrived.

Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said that aside from being tired and dehydrated, the group was fine – and credits the skill of the helicopter rescue crew with the success of the operation to save all 19 people from one. space that they could not escape on their own.

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The group consisted mainly of children aged 11 and 12, plus two adults.

The sergeant said. Nick Napierski of a rescue that requires professional precision like this and others, “Sometimes we can see them in the crack, so we have to use thermography – collect the heat signatures. In this case, we could see [the hikers] while we flew. “

An image from the dramatic video of a rescue carried out on Friday by a highly skilled helicopter crew in Utah.
(Utah Department of Public Safety)

“When we spotted them,” he said, “due to the number of people, we decided to settle down with a quick set up, in which I have a life jacket, drop me into the hole and tie them to me … and then the helicopter takes me back up “.

Napierski continued: “The slot was 110-130 feet high, with a lot of rocky overhang. If you’re not careful, you can hit a wall or hit the rock ledge. You also need to make sure you don’t break a cable – if it hits sandstone. , it could fray. ”

He said: “The rescue worked well, even though we typically don’t have 19 people stuck in a hole all at once.”

“From when we took the first person to when we stopped the 19th – 17 children and 2 adults – it took about an hour and 45 minutes.”

“Whenever we operate outside of any norm like this, we have to reevaluate why we have to do things differently. It’s super tight through those jagged overhangs, so sending an empty hook wasn’t an option.”

Napierski added: “We pulled out the top five [people], then he had to stop and rest. It is also difficult for the helicopter. Then we stopped four more before having to refuel. “

He said after that, “We’ve eliminated the last 12 [people]. From when we took the first person to when we stopped the 19th – 17 children and 2 adults – it took about an hour and 45 minutes “.

Another screenshot of the dramatic rescue undertaken by a helicopter crew in Garfield County, Utah late last week.

Another screenshot of the dramatic rescue undertaken by a helicopter crew in Garfield County, Utah late last week.
(Utah Department of Public Safety)

The children were “tired and dehydrated” and “in varying degrees” of psychological shock when they were rescued, she said. “Some were asking about their mothers. When a leader said they had been stuck for over 30 hours, these babies were young and that’s the Navy SEAL kind of stuff,” he added, referring to the fact that they were stuck in a confined space. for such a long time.

“When they returned to their camp they were in a better mood,” added Napierski.

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He pointed out, “This canyon is very difficult, it’s not even for canyoning experts. But that’s what we train for. We train every two weeks, where we create these kinds of scenarios. It’s really a team minded,” he said. added. “We run these winches every day. The team in the plane is our daily bread and I am grateful to highlight them.”

“This canyon is very difficult, it’s not even for canyoning experts.”

Danny Perkins, Garfield County Sheriff, told Fox News Digital: “A slot canyon is a very, very narrow canyon. Sometimes, [these slot canyons are] only a few inches wide in places, like 12-18 inches. They can climb long distances and are a bit wider at the top. “

He pointed out, “These slots aren’t for beginners. They’re very skilled canyon types. I’ve had situations where people got stuck there and need to be saved. Just a week before this group crashed, we had to save four. people in a nearby slot canyon. “

Perkins said, “I don’t know exactly how this group got stuck. I think they were lowered in there. But the only way out is to go up the crevice to where it’s wide enough to guide your way out.”

“Getting these guys out of the hole was like threading a needle,” Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins told Fox News Digital about the daring rescue from one of Utah’s slot canyons.
(Utah Department of Public Safety)

Perkins also told Fox News Digital: “The helicopter crew that came to rescue the group is one of the most highly trained crews in the US. Getting these guys out of the hole was like sticking a needle – that’s how it is. they pulled them out. “

“In addition to being tired, the children were said to be in good condition” when they were rescued.

Perkins said, “I tell people to know your limits and, for whatever reason, people have a hard time doing it. They want to go and have this experience. But know your limits and don’t be arrogant, especially if you are responsible for others.” .

“This is the ‘real deal’ in Red Rock country. This area will devour you … If you get trapped in a slot canyon and there is a flood, it could be deadly.”

“This is the ‘real deal’ in Red Rock country. This area will devour you, both in the heat and in the monsoon season. If you get caught in a slot canyon and there is a flood, it could be deadly.”

The sheriff pointed out to everyone else that they might consider a hike or trip like this: “Know your surroundings and your limitations and do your research. Don’t overdo it. We want people to have fun, but be safe”.

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“These canyons are so narrow that it’s hard to see the bottom. If we didn’t have the helicopter, I don’t know if the result would have been the same,” he added.

Christopher Hagedorn, an experienced canyoner and owner of Get In The Wild Adventures of Hanksville, Utah, told Fox News Digital: “Canyoning is a very specialized sport that requires unique knowledge, training and experience to be practiced safely. When you group as inexperienced as the young the group attempts to descend the canyons with little or no experience: things can go wrong very quickly, as has happened for this group. “

“If we hadn’t had the helicopter, I don’t know if the result would have been the same.”

He also stated, “Slot canyons are dynamic systems that constantly change from one flash flood to another. Hazards can appear and disappear after each flash flood, which means that canyoners must be able to overcome any obstacles they encounter. “.

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“It is for these reasons and more,” added Hagedorn, “that beginners should seek out professional guides to teach them the skills needed both to descend canyons safely and to learn essential rescue skills if something goes wrong and they need to. save himself “.

“Accept the challenges above and increase them by a few orders of magnitude – this is the challenge and danger of Sandthrax Canyon.”

“Like it [in] Most technical sports, canyoners use a Canyon Rating System which helps define the level of challenge, difficulty and risk of specific canyoning routes. This group may have attempted to descend nearby Leprechaun Canyon, not Sandthrax. “

While “Leprechaun is a beginner level technical canyoning course … Sandthrax is one of the toughest technical canyons in the Colorado Plateau”.

Hagedorn added, “In Sandthrax, ill-prepared and inexperienced canyoners begin to descend the canyon, abseil and quickly find that they are far above their heads and cannot descend or retrace their steps. They are trapped.”

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“When navigating an area where one of the easiest and most difficult canyons are a ridge away, descending into the wrong canyon can quickly result in a rescue operation, which is what it has been reported to be. happened to this group “.