ST. GEORGE – A family is back home safe after being reported overdue and missing during an excursion down the Virgin River.
A family of five set out to float down the Virgin River on tubes from Bloomington down to Cedar Pocket in Arizona Monday. However, due to misjudging the depth of the river and how slow it flowed, the family ended up walking much of the way, St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley said Tuesday.
Other family members called St. George Police just after midnight early Tuesday morning to report the group was missing. Officers responded to the area of the Man O War Bridge near Bloomington Park and located one of the family’s vehicles there.
Initially, were wasn’t much information for the police and searchers to work with, Trombley said.
As a search began, the Intermountain Healthcare Life Flight helicopter was called upon to spotlight the river for the missing family. The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office was also contacted to aid in the search. A Washington County Sheriff’s sergeant was called upon as well to help coordinate potential search and rescue activity.
A Mojave County Sheriff’s deputy soon located a Ford Escape belonging to the family near the river in the Cedar Pocket area in the Virgin River Gorge.
“We directed Life Flight to focus their search between Cedar Pocket area and our location,” Trombely said. “Life Flight advised they located three individuals walking in the river … They landed and walked toward the people discovering there were five of them. They verified it was the missing family.”
A St. George Police officer was sent to Cedar Pocket and confirmed everyone was alright.
“It turns out the family had misjudged how low the river was and how slow the current was,” Trombley said. “They had to walk most of the trek because (the water was) so shallow, causing it to take much longer than they anticipated.”
The family also became disoriented on where they exactly were once the sun went down, Trish Carter, the Mohave County Sheriff’s public information specialist, said in an email Tuesday.
“They had limited water, no food, gear, shoes or phones,” Carter said. “Life Flight located the party just north of Cedar Pockets in the river. Life Flight crew, Mohave County Sheriff’s Deputy, and a St. George Officer hiked down to the family and led them out of the river.”
No one was injured, though they were exhausted and scared. The appearance of the Life Flight helicopter was an answer to the family’s prayers, Trombley said.
“The father told officer’s they had been praying as a family on the bank of the river when they heard the helicopter and were happy to go home,” she said.
Search and Rescue teams out of Mohave and Washington counties had been contacted to potentially mobilize for a joint search, but were subsequently canceled once the family was found, Carter said.
“We would like to thank Life Flight, Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Mojave County, and our Public Safety Communications Center for their help in getting this family home safely.” Trombley said.
Individuals and groups who intend to trek into the backcountry as a part of their summer escapades are encouraged to share their plans with others and also to adequately prepare ahead of time. This will help give police and other potential searchers a better idea of where to start looking.
Having adequate supplies and gear on hand can also be a benefit to those who may find themselves lost and in need of aid.
“It is always best to plan for the worst while hoping for the best,” Trombley said.
St. George News reporter Julie Applegate contributed to this story.
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